From the piste to the police

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April 22, 2021
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    Molly and Katie SummerhayesMolly (left) and Katie (right) Summerhayes were the fourth set of sisters to represent Great Britain at the same Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang

    Just under three years have passed since the last Winter Olympics and it has been a challenging time for Katie and Molly Summerhayes.

    The freestyle skiers became only the fourth set of sisters to represent Great Britain at the same Winter Games in Pyeongchang, competing in the slopestyle and halfpipe respectively.

    But while Katie, 25, will look to complete her "unfinished business" at the Beijing Olympics in 15 months' time, life looks very different for her little sister Molly.

    Forced into retirement in late 2018 after being told she would no longer receive funding, the 23-year-old has swapped her skis for a police uniform and will soon be on the beat on the streets of South Yorkshire.

    "I remember one of the interviews I did after my retirement, I was asked what I wanted to do now and I just said: 'I'm going to join the police.' That was before I'd even registered my interest," she tells BBC Sport.

    "When I was skiing, I never really thought of the police as something I was going to go into straight away, but I think I did have that underlying interest the whole time."

    Molly openly admits she struggled after her premature exit from the skiing world. It had come about "all of a sudden" and she had no idea where her future lay.

    "I felt really lost," she says. "I remember saying to my mum: 'I don't know what I'm meant to do now.'

    "My career ended so fast – one minute I'd been to the Olympics, and later that year I wasn't doing it any more."

    Molly Summerhayes in her uniformMolly Summerhayes in her police uniform

    Fast forward a couple of difficult years and Molly has at last found her calling. She has started a police constable degree apprenticeship at Sheffield Hallam University that will see her combine on-the-job training with getting a degree.

    "I hadn't been skiing in years and I had forgotten how much I love it. Now I'm learning new things every day again and it's so exciting," she says, while polishing her boots for the next day.

    "I absolutely love talking to people – I want to be able to help people and be the person who can change something for them and give them support."

    So what do her class-mates and fellow recruits think of Molly's previous career?

    "I've already had a cake fine. Every now and again I get the 'oh just because you're an Olympian'," she laughs.

    "They're always telling the new instructors, but it's quite nice."

    'We have to make the most of every opportunity at the minute'

    It has not been the easiest few years for Katie, either.

    Just seven months after finishing seventh in the slopestyle in Pyeongchang, the GB Snowsport athlete ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) for the third time.

    "I knew I'd hurt my knee but every physio I saw – I saw three or four – thought it was bone bruising," she says.

    "Hearing that I'd done my ACL again, those words were just horrible. It's horrible because you know exactly what rehab consists of and it's such a long process."

    Katie returned to the World Cup circuit in January this year and achieved a "big step" in the shape of three top-10 finishes.

    But then came the coronavirus pandemic. Katie was in Switzerland when GB Snowsport ordered its athletes to return home, two weeks before the UK went into lockdown.

    "It was frustrating because I felt like I had just got back into the swing of things. March and April is the best time to be on snow because of the conditions so I was really gutted to miss that," says the 2015 world championship slopestyle silver medallist.

    "It's so weird because in an Olympic cycle, 18 months before the Olympics, everything normally looks so different to how it does now.

    "You're normally in really hard training, but everyone is in the same position.

    "We've just got to try and make the most of every opportunity we get at the minute."

    Katie Summerhayes in action at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter OlympicsKatie Summerhayes finished seventh in the slopestyle in Pyeongchang

    One such opportunity will come at the first freestyle World Cup of the season in Stubai, Austria, later this week.

    With some future events, including a World Cup in Beijing, China, already cancelled and questions as to whether February's World Championships in China will go ahead, it is an important early opportunity to gain valuable points towards Olympic qualifying.

    "I definitely feel like I have some unfinished business with the Olympics – I always feel like that," she says.

    "Who knows what's going to happen? But, hopefully, third time lucky."

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