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TWO OF THE BEST - Jane Peel, Laax, Switzerland
Sunday April 8, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

Tiny, talented and tipped for the top. PlanetSKI meets Mia Brookes and Kirsty Muir, the freestylers who have what it takes to be the best in the world.





It is hard to explain just how good these two kids are.

Mia Brookes is 11 and a snowboarder.

Kirsty Muir is 13 and a skier.

Olympians in waiting?  Quite possibly.

They are both on the development programme for GB Park and Pipe, the freestyle arm of the sport's governing body, British Ski and Snowboard.

The programme provides coaching and support to the brightest freestyle talents in the country throughout the winter in Laax.

PlanetSKI has been following the girls' progress for the past two years and met up with them and their mums at the BRITS - the British Snowboard and Freeski Championships in Laax, where both picked up a haul of medals.

Kirsty Muir - Skier

Kirsty MuirKirsty Muir



























She's landing tricks way beyond her years and keeps getting better and better.

Have a look at her season edit from 2016/17 when she was 12. 



At the BRITS 2018 she dominated the under-16 age category in which she competes.

But that's not all. 

She also won the overall Open category in all three contests in which she competed - slopestyle, big air and halfpipe.




Yes, there was a smaller field this year and the athletes from the main GB Park & Pipe Squad who beat her last year, Olympians Katie Summerhayes and Rowan Cheshire, were absent so she had a clearer shot at the British titles.

But that shouldn't take away from what she's achieved. 

This is Kirsty, landing a 1080 in Laax in March this year:

 

Great Britain's top male slopestyle and big air skier, James 'Woodsy' Woods, who was watching on at the BRITS, identifies Kirsty as the outstanding up-and-coming athlete.

"It's great to see so much talent coming through," he told us, "but if I had to pick one person, this is the one.. this is one talent."

We spoke to Kirsty and her little sister, 11-year-old Fiona, who's also a mean skier with a couple of age category golds from the BRITS.

The interview took place before Kirsty had swept the board with her three overall titles:

 

In May 2017 Kirsty was accepted into the high-performance Sport Scotland Institute of Sport, where the very best sporting talent is developed and nurtured.

She still spends most of her time learning her craft at the Aberdeen Snowsports centre dry slope, on the trampoline at Banchory and, when snow conditions allow, in the Scottish mountains at the Lecht.

But she has managed to spend seven weeks in the Alps this season, most of it in Laax and all of it centred around the main holidays so she has to take the minimum amount of time away from her schooling. 

Kirsty MuirKirsty Muir in the slopestyle - photo Bluebird Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her mum, Kim, travels with her and Fiona.

Dad Jim is unable to be in Laax this year as the girls' 16-year-old brother Jimmy has important exams coming up.

Kim, Fiona and KirstyKim, Fiona and Kirsty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"It's lovely to be able to see what they're doing and be a support for them," Kim says.

"I think what they are learning is life skills - trying to do the best you can is good in anything you do in life."

Mia Brookes - Snowboarder

Mia BrookesMia Brookes - photo MotionStoppers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mia Brookes is the snowboarding equivalent of Kirsty but, at 11, two years younger.

A year ago she became the youngest athlete to be taken on by the GB Park and Pipe development programme.

She's proved herself not just on the British stage. This season she has competed in the World Rookie Tour for the first time.

In her first slopestyle event she came third.  In her second she topped the podium.

This week, it's the finals in Kaprun in Austria, and you sense that Mia will be going all out for another win.

Update: Mia made it onto the podium for the third time in a row in Kaprun, finishing third.

Mia BrookesMia Brookes in the big air - photo MotionStoppers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the BRITS this year she won the under-12 category in big air, halfpipe and snowboard cross.

She also made it onto the overall podium twice, with bronze in the halfpipe and gold in big air.  It's her first overall title at the BRITS.

Have a look at her showing how to ride a box:

In her early years, Mia was coached by her parents Vicky & Nige - fanatical snowboarders who spent five winters living in a camper van in Chamonix.

Nige, Vicky and Mia BrookesNige, Vicky and Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They planned Mia around their seasons and introduced her to snowboarding before she could walk.

"I said to Nige 'what happens if she doesn't like snowboarding?' and he said that she'd have a lot of boring holidays staying with the grandparents while we went away, Vicky tells us.

"The aim was to be riding as a family and if we could get her linking turns by the time she was 10-years-old and enjoying the family holiday and able to ride the whole mountain, we would be happy."

In the event, Mia was outriding her parents in the park by the time she was six or seven.

Now they are all back living in a camper van, which is parked in Laax for the winter, to give Mia access to the top British coaches whenever she can be here.

The Brookes camper vanMia's mountain home in Laax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"There is a difference between supporting (Mia) and being pushy," Vicky says.

"We've told her that if this is what she wants she's got to work hard but we would never push her beyond the limits."

The level at which Mia is competing means she's had to take about four weeks out of school for competitions and training.

She's had six weeks in total in Laax this winter.

"We take work away and her school exams and results are all good," Vicky says.

Speaking to Mia, it's clear that she has ambitions but does what she does because she loves snowboarding:


 

 

Have a look at this Instagram post with footage of Mia in Laax in February 2017:

 


 

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympic bronze medallist, Billy Morgan, spent some time riding with the youngsters at the BRITS and says Mia is a big talent.

"It's always good to see the small ones shredding around," he told us, "super talent, she looks like she's having a really good time, so epic."

And that says it all, really.

Both Mia and Kirsty may be supremely talented but they're still just kids having fun and that's the way their coaches want it.

They're not solely focused on their snowsports either.

Mia, for example, loves cross-country running, plays electric guitar and is thinking about spending some of her winnings from the BRITS on Lego.

One of the GB coaches, Euan Baxter, spoke to us about the two youngest athletes on the development programme:


GB Park and Pipe is keen to provide more training and support for young athletes at the level of Kirsty and Mia.

How much will depend on the funding it receives from UK Sport in the next four-year round, which is not expected to be announced until June at the earliest.

Lesley McKenna, the GB Park and Pipe programme manager hopes there'll be a bigger pot of money following the successful Pyeongchang Winter Olympics at which the freestylers picked up two bronze medals.

Extra funding came in after Jenny Jones won her bronze in the snowboard slopestyle at Sochi in 2014.

Kirsty Muir & Mia BrookesMore money for Kirsty & Mia?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"We hope to provide a full-time programme down to development level if we get the funding," Lesley McKenna says.

She says that doesn't mean removing the youngest athletes from full-time education to live in the mountains.  But it could involve more time spent in training camps in the Alps and extra help with studying and homework when they're out of school.

In the meantime there are plans to make use of the new Greystone indoor freesports training facility that is due to open in Manchester this autumn and other similar centres in the pipeline.

"As well as these types of facilities we will continue to work with the indoor and artificial facilities providers to try and get the best possible parks up more often in these facilities and also continue to work with the Scottish Ski areas so that we get the best possible parks out there too," Lesley McKenna says.

"Projects like the Lecht Winter Games show what is possible and we want more of that!"

Here at PlanetSKI, we'll be keeping an eye on all the developments and continuing to watch the the progress of Kirsty Muir and Mia Brookes.

Read more of our coverage from The BRITS 2018:

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

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