Thomas’ Big Air manoeuvres carefully calculated 

Staying healthy, tracking down sponsors the other side of life as a pro skier

Remaining healthy is something most people can achieve quite easily with the right diet and exercise but when you’re Rex Thomas, it’s a little more difficult.

Thomas is one of the best trick skiers in the world and next week he’s going to take a shot at improving on the third place he achieved last year in the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival’s Big Air competition.

Thomas has so far broken his back, dislocated one foot and compressed a heel socket, and at the time of this interview he had just recovered from a concussion.

"I knocked myself out last Tuesday… I was just trying a big five," Thomas said.

The 24-year-old admitted that managing injuries was the hardest aspect of the sport.

"You’ve got to stay on top of your game and make sure you’re always progressing and staying healthy," he said.

"But staying healthy is really hard work, you really have to manage yourself.

"You have to be calculating… like, had I not been wearing a helmet last Tuesday when I landed on the flat from 18 feet; it would have been much worse."

Thomas will be one of the most experienced competitors in the April 24 Salomon Big Air competition and as such it would be logical to think he has a sound plan or a method to the madness that ensues after he launches off 20-foot kickers.

But Thomas has a different approach to competing.

"Hopefully I think of nothing," Thomas said as he stared up the Blackcomb superpipe.

"I just want to be blank and let my body do what I’ve trained."

Different, yes, but his theory works because on his previous run he got 10 feet out of the pipe and landed a smooth "five".

Thomas wasn’t exactly sure of what he would pull out of his bag of tricks for the Big Air event this year but he did say he enjoyed doing a lot of "unnatural" spinning.

"My goal this year is the same as every year," he said. "I just have to land tricks and leave the rest up to the judges."

Thomas’s attitude might seem laid back but it’s one that has been shaped from years of competing in a sport that is governed by subjective opinion.

"The down side of competing is that it’s a judged sport.

"It’s one of the reasons competitions can be so unpopular because (the results) are based on somebody else’s opinion."

Thomas said another aspect of the sport, which can be a lot harder than many pundits realize, is the amount of work athletes must put in to remain professional.

"The business side of things, which is just on a completely different level to anything (to do with competing), is something that you probably wouldn’t be able to comprehend or believe me if I told you about it.

"Everybody looks from the outside in and they see me doing whatever I do and thinks it’s great – and it is, but they don’t see what happens on the cloudy days when I’m sitting on the phone for 13 hours to sponsors, or getting dicked around for money like everybody else."

Despite the rigmarole that’s involved with supporting his career, Thomas said he couldn’t wait to compete in the Big Air this year.

"The WSSF is my favourite event mostly because of the fact that I can go home and hang out with my girlfriend and relax.

"I can also have a few beers with friends who aren’t in the ski industry.

"But I love the Big Air, this year my mum and step dad will be here from Golden as well so that will make it even better."

Thomas said Sweden’s Jan Olsson and U.S. sensation Tanner Hall would again threaten for the title but he warned there would always be a brigade of young guns waiting for their shot at the big time.

"I think young guys like T.J. Schiller, Josh Bibby and Charles Gagnier are all going much bigger this year."

Regardless of who might be competing, Thomas said the crowd at the Salomon Big Air always plays a role.

"With a big crowd, if you’re not 100 per cent on your game, then 20,000 screaming freaks will usually help wake you up a bit."

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