From the devastating low of a serious back injury which shattered his Olympic snowboarding dreams, Jamie Barrow’s career has reached heights – and speeds – never before seen in his sport.
Born and brought up in Switzerland and on the slopes from a very young age, Barrow was seemingly destined to make his mark in the world of winter sports.
“I started skiing when I was about two years old, somewhere around that time,” Barrow explains. “When I was eight, I decided I wanted to do something that I was better than my older brother at, who was always a little bit faster than me. That’s when I discovered snowboarding.”
The 27-year-old credits growing up in the Alps as a big factor in his subsequent success. “It was amazing. At the time I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I would do now, but I absolutely loved it. I had the snow so I could go wherever I wanted during the winter season and that definitely helped me get to the level I am at now.”
Like most young snowboarders, Barrow dreamt of competing at the Olympics. Following several impressive results in senior competitions, he looked in good shape heading into 2013, the year when qualification for the 2014 Winter Games would be decided, before disaster struck.
Barrow suffered a serious back injury on a qualifying run that January, after the high-back on his binding broke and he ended up off the slope. His hopes of competing at Sochi 2014 were in tatters.
“That was one of the lowest points of my life,” he revealed. “It was really quite depressing after that crash, I lost everything, and it was a to come back again, but the motivation for me was to prove the doctors wrong. They told me I would never be able to run again never mind snowboard. I wanted to prove them wrong and get back to what I loved.”
Even follow a crash of such magnitude, Barrow was determined to make his mark on the sport, even if he was unable to compete for his country.
“I came up with the idea of doing ski records. I knew I’d be in a lot of pain snowboarding, but if I just went straight down a hill for 20-30 seconds I could put up with the pain for that long.”
In April 2013, just months after doctors told him he would never be able to run again, Barrow broke the British snowboard speed record, recording a time of 151.6kph, before three times breaking the world record for the fastest speed whilst being towed by a vehicle.
“The first time I did it, it was a huge achievement for me as I’d always wanted to be in the Guinness Book of World Records, and to finally do it was a great achievement,” he explained.
“The first two times there was always something which held me back and stopped me from going faster, whether it was the car not being fast enough or we didn’t have a long enough track or just the conditions weren’t right.
“So, this third time I wanted to find a new place so that nothing held me back and that’s why I went out to Norway. I wanted to see just how fast I could go, and I was lucky enough to break the record again, going faster than I ever had done before at speeds of over 183kph.”
‘When I was falling over at 180kph, that was the scariest moment of my life for sure’
Despite setting yet another world record, Barrow described the achievement as being “bittersweet”, with several things going wrong which prevented him from going even faster, including another scary crash.
“Don’t get me wrong I was so happy to have broken the record, but so many things went wrong on the day. Firstly, the weather came in a little bit and it was -14°C. On the first run it was so cold that the spray from the car was freezing to my goggles, I went completely blind at 180kph and ended up crashing which was the fastest snowboard crash ever recorded.
“I wasn’t really expecting to get up from that. I knocked myself out a bit and slid for over 100 metres, but when I came to, I was okay.
“That wasn’t a great way to start the day, but I eventually pulled myself together, knowing I had worked so hard with the preparations for the record. I shook myself of and went for it again with a couple more runs and was able to break the record.
“I didn’t go as fast as I wanted to go as we didn’t have the right conditions and the equipment was messing up a little bit, however I did go faster than I’d ever been before, so I was really happy with that.”
Barrow has experienced several major crashes in his career but revealed this latest one at 180kph to be the most frightening of them all.
“Being knocked out and waking up in the snow is not a nice feeling. When I was falling over, that was the scariest moment of my life for sure. When I injured myself the first time it wasn’t that big of a crash, it wasn’t scary. Whereas this time was the scariest thing that I’ve ever done.”
Far from putting Barrow off, however, the snowboarder is aiming to break his own world record once again in the near future.
“My next target is definitely to hit 200kph. That’s always been the aim and I was hoping to have done it on my last attempt, but things didn’t quite go to plan.
“It’s not always about trying to get it on the first go, it’s about dealing with these setbacks and coming back stronger. I’ve got a few other world records I’d like to break as well, they’re in the pipeline, but we’ll see how this goes.”
Away from the records, Barrow has visited many different resorts around the world and describes Japan as being his favourite place to snowboard.
“The snow over there and the powder is absolutely incredible. It was my dream, somewhere I’d always wanted to go. It was just incredible, unlike anywhere you can go in Europe.”
By far the most unique place he has visited however is North Korea. Very few would associate ski resorts with the most isolated country on the planet, but Barrow was lucky enough to experience them first-hand.
“Snowboarding there was a very strange experience. We pretty much got a whole private resort to ourselves. It was an interesting trip. They’ve just opened up a new ski resort and we’re in talks at the moment to be the first journalists to visit to film a documentary with National Geographic.”
Featured image via https://www.facebook.com/barrowboarder/