Winter Olympics: Charlotte Bankes aims for Beijing 2022 medal to say thanks to GB

Charlotte Bankes was at the “point of giving up” when Great Britain offered a lifeline – and now she wants to say thanks in the form of an Olympic medal.

Bankes switched the red, white and blue of France for that of Team GB in 2018, and it is a move that has paid off. Since her change of allegiance, the 26-year-old has become snowboard cross world champion, as well as winning four World Cup titles.

Next, to Beijing. The Winter Olympics are just days away, and Bankes – already a veteran of two Games – heads to China as arguably Team GB’s greatest chance of gold.

“I’d always had it in the back of my mind to compete for Great Britain, and I think that was the right time to do that change,” she told BBC Sport.

“It wasn’t easy, it was quite tough, but I’m really happy with how it went.

“As soon as I decided and reached out to see if it was possible, I had great support from GB Snowsport and that’s led to where I am now.”

Bankes, who was born in Britain and moved to France aged four, added: “If I can come back with a medal from the Olympics it would be a great way to say thank you for believing in me and for believing that I was capable of it.

“I was at the point of giving up when I made that switch, and didn’t think anybody actually believed I could make it.”

Bankes’ move to GB came after years of struggle. In 2011, she fractured her pelvis, leaving her with lasting pain that prevented her from properly training for years.

She “lost a bit of the love” that she had for snowboarding and when the French team decided to make changes to its set-up at the height of her unhappiness, it was time for a change of her own.

More than three years on, Bankes is almost pain-free and riding at her best for GB – this season alone she has won three World Cup golds, including two in 24 hours in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, in January.

The Olympics couldn’t be coming at a better time.

Charlotte Bankes
Charlotte Bankes is the 2021 snowboard cross world champion

“I haven’t had the experience I would have liked to have had at the Olympics, but I just need to take it as any other race,” said Bankes, who finished seventh in Pyeongchang four years ago after failing to reach the semi-finals at Sochi 2014.

“The best riders will be there and riding at their best so the aim is to just take it step by step.

“We’ve been lucky enough to go to China already and see the track, so we’ve got an idea of what we’ll be racing on. We were worried it was going to be very flat but it’s not as bad as we thought.

“They’ve got some changes to make so it’s good that we went beforehand so that they saw what worked and what didn’t.

“It’s not quite as spectacular as previous Games, but that was the aim because there have been a lot of injuries.”

The women’s snowboard cross takes place on 9 February at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, some 180km from Beijing itself.

Bankes heads there with a medal in her sights but it is the fight she is most looking forward to.

“I’m going there aiming to be at my best. If I’m riding well, the results should be pretty good,” she said.

“For sure gold is the aim in the end. But everything can happen.

“There’s a good battle going on within the girls and that’s what I want to be part of most of all.

“Hopefully the result will come with it.”

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