HE’S gone from the dry slopes of Hillend to the boss of Britain’s Olympic snowboarding team.
Hamish McKnight is hoping to lead his GB team to a haul of medals as the Winter Olympics get under way in Sochi.
The former Stewart’s Melville pupil, now 32, spent ten years as a professional snowboarder before getting the job as head coach with the GB squad. And now he is looking to keep some of the “youngsters” in the squad in line and give them the benefit of his experience.
Hamish, from Stenhouse, took up the hobby when he was 15, quickly learning the basics after years spent skateboarding.
He said: “I practised in Hillend mainly. In those days it didn’t have the purpose-built jump they have there now. We used to carry prefab jumps out on to the slope a few nights a week and practise tricks on them, so injuries were frequent.”
Now in charge of training the elite athletes, Hamish uses his expertise to help shape their performances, coming up with routines to suit each competitor individually.
And with seven snowboarders at the 2014 Games, there are realistic medal prospects in both men’s and women’s events.
Speaking from the Olympic village, Hamish said excitement was building on the slopes of the Caucasus mountains, with British rider Jamie Nicholls coming fourth in the qualifying round to make it straight through to today’s final.
He said: “It’s actually been very easy-going so far. The atmosphere in here is good and the schedule not too demanding.
“There are a few issues with the slopestyle course but that is normal.
“Slopestyle as a discipline is very open, with possibly ten riders with a serious chance of medals.
“The nature of the sport is a little all or nothing though. If you fall you fall, it can be over very quickly and at the highest level nobody is holding back.”
The sport – and its participants – have a reputation for people enjoying themselves but Hamish said his gang knows when it is time to work and time to party.
“Everyone likes to enjoy themselves. Snowboarding is still very much lifestyle driven and the culture within the sport is about having fun. Even at the top level our goals involve having fun in everything we do.
“The team know when to party and when to keep it in check so thankfully I don’t have to do too much reprimanding.
“The support we’ve had from Edinburgh and all over the UK has been unbelievable.”