We were joined by snowboarder and green ambassador Katie Ormerod at Solarplicity HQ last week. She told us all about her injury that denied her a childhood dream, her road to recovery and her new passion for protecting the environment.
Hey Katie, great to see you again! Last time we were in the same room you were days away from setting off for the Winter Olympics…
Yes! Time flies…
Indeed. It is safe to say you have not had the best of times since then. What happened!?
(Laughs) Well I was at the Olympics in Korea and it was all going really well and then on the first training day with 30 minutes to go I just slipped off the end of a rail doing a basic trick. It wasn’t a big deal but I chipped a bone in my wrist. I just put it in a splint and got some pain killers and kept going. And then a day later, I slipped again on the same rail…for some reason everything was against me! This time I broke my heel into two pieces and I couldn’t compete in the games.
Ouch! I’ve never heard of anyone breaking their heel before..
I couldn’t believe it is one of the hardest bones to break and I did it. Usually people break it when they fall from a height and it shatters, but mine broke so cleanly, straight into two pieces – so they just put two pins in it.
Wow, so it was kind of lucky in a way?
Not really! I then had to have emergency surgery and I was in hospital for 8 days in Korea. But they flew me back home because – and this is pretty disgusting – the way it broke should have really broken through the skin, but because it didn’t, it killed the skin from the inside out. So, I had to have four more skin surgeries and skin grafts.
That sounds terrible, and didn’t you break your back previously?
Yeah last year, I broke my back but that was fine. It was nothing, it was like a paper cut compared to breaking my heel.
I’m sure it was….well enough of broken bones, when are you aiming to snowboard again?
With my recovery at the minute I am past the hardest parts so I’m just focusing on getting as strong as I can, I’m in the gym 3 to 4 times a week having physio and going in the pool. So, I think I’m definitely on track to be snowboarding in October and I should be stronger than I was before, so I should get all my tricks back really quick within a few weeks and then hopefully I can start competing again as soon as possible, and then hopefully I can get back to winning medals sooner rather than later.
Medals aren’t your only aim, you also have some goals outside of the sport involving the environment?
Ah yes, I really want to improve my carbon footprint, be greener in general and show people that with lots of small changes we can all make a difference.
What has brought this on, were you always environmentally conscious?
A bit yeah. When I started travelling with the British team when I was 14, travelling the world and a living with the team who were mostly older than me, I noticed that they were conscious about the environment. Even little things like leaving the door of the fridge open too much would really annoy them so I think that’s been ingrained in me to do things, the little things, that make a big difference….or I’d get in trouble!
Right yes, so you were educated by living with others who lived by certain rules. Do you think that is the way we can all make changes to our lifestyle?
That, and perhaps a lack of knowledge for the consequences. I think if people understood more about the consequences, and if you just turn the lights off, how big an impact that would make so yeah I think. I think even those who know it can be lazy too, and not make the steps to change their habits. In my case, luckily things like shutting the fridge door, turning the lights out, and using reusable bags was drilled into me from an early age.
So you never forget your shopping bags then?
Sometimes (laughs). But when I do I just walk with my arms full of shopping.
Fair enough. So aside from the little things, what else about the environment catches your attention?
Obviously the plastic we use every day is in the news quite a lot. Seeing the plastic washed up on beaches is really awful and I hope people have started to realise the problem. We are being too careless. A big gripe for me is plastic straws. For a few years now I have been buying glass straws. It’s a win-win really as you can just use them over and over again and it’s not harming the environment. They are also so much easier to use than plastic ones so really can’t see a downside.
What is driving you to keep improving this in yourself?
As a snowboarder, obviously it is important that we have snow in the mountains to compete. I started to worry about my sport and the future of it. No snow means no snowboarding, so we all need to do something about it now.
Are you able to see the difference in snowfall since you’ve been a pro?
Definitely. For 5 straight years I was in the same resort in U.S, at the same time of the year. The change in the amount of snow was amazing. I think in the third year they even had to delay opening the resort because they just had no snow at all. It was a big eye opener for me, I guess when it disrupts what you are doing you are more likely to notice.
Right before the Olympics you did an event with some young locals, teaching them to snowboard but also making them aware of renewable energy. How important is it to teach the next generations about this?
Huge, definitely. I think I became aware at around 13 and I think the younger you learn, the better and more natural it will be for you. If you grow up and things like renewable energy and recycling are automatic, then the world is just going to be so much better. Hopefully, for the next generation it will be like that. However, our generation still needs to learn and adopt new habits so we can pass this on.
So alongside your recovery from injury and medal quest, you also want to save the planet?
(Laughs) Yes, well I am only one person and I know it’s a big task for the entire world, but we need to feel empowered to make a difference. My recovery from injury has inspired this even further, as each rehab session is a small part of the overall goal to be back on my board again. The same idea can be applied to helping the planet; lots of little things can achieve the overall aim if we understand their importance.