Meet the Fylde man aiming to put Britain on the Winter Olympics medal map.
Pat Sharples is head coach of the 12-strong GB team of slopestyle skiers and snowboarders as the freeski discipline makes its Olympics debut at the Games in Sochi, Russia starting tomorrow.
He is hoping under his guidance, the team can help improve Britain’s dismal medals record.
The 36-year-old lives in Lytham with wife Vanessa and 18-month-old son Reggie and will have a host of locally-based relatives, including brother Matt and grandmother Joan, both in St Annes, proudly cheering on his charges as they aim for what would be Britain’s first-ever gold medal achieved on snow.
The success of ski and snowboard cross in the last Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 saw slopestyle, in which skiers and riders are judged on their execution of tricks while heading down a course with obstacles, fast-tracked into the next Games. A slopestyle enthusiast since his teens, Pat readily admits to still having to pinch himself to believe that his sport is in the international spotlight.
“If someone had said just three or four years ago that we would be in this situation now, I wouldn’t have believed it possible,” he said.
“For years, ours was seen as more of an extreme than a mainstream sport but we’re no longer the underdogs and the other nations have massive respect for us.”
Pat grew up in Bradford but his father Paul, who now lives in France, originally hails from St Annes. Pat went on his first skiing holiday at seven years old and was introduced to wife Vanessa, whose family are Lytham-based, by her sister Sally at a French ski resort.
“That certainly proved it’s a small world and we love living in Lytham,” said Pat.
“I know the area is hardly well known as a winter sports centre but some bad winters over the last few years mean I have managed to ski on the sand dunes a couple of times.”