At 13 years old, Matthew Cox is already a snowboarding champion. His ultimate goal is to compete in the Winter Olympics, and preparation for that includes a 4 month stint in America from the start of December. He shares his story with FOCUS.
How did you get in to snowboarding?
I was 3 when my dad took me down to Thredbo and put me on a little 90 cm board. He would push me down the slope and pull me back up the mountain. Dad owns a surf and snow shop down at Engadine, so that’s something we did prior to moving up here. When I was old enough to put on a snowboard, Dad put me on the smallest one you can buy, with the smallest boots and bindings.
Your mum says you’ve always had a great sense of balance …
Yeah, she thinks I’m a natural! People were watching me from a really young age; I guess they could see potential. So Dad just kept on pursuing it with me … it’s something we did together.
So do you still snowboard with your Dad?
Yeah, he snowboards around with a big bag weighing about 20 kg with all his cameras and gear. He pretty much follows me around.
What training do you do?
I do the Winter Sports Club, which is a good club from Australia. That’s at Perisher, and it’s basically their main training camp. It runs for 11 weeks. I don’t usually do the full 11 weeks … I’ll go in and out in blocks. But this year we tried the intense program to give me blocks down there, because I’m at a higher level of snowboarding now and I need more time on the snow. If I don’t have that time on the snow, I’ll be left behind and won’t achieve what I want to. So we did a block this winter where I stayed down the whole 11 weeks. This coming winter over in America I’ve been accepted in this High Performance Class, so I’ll be training over there.
What was the first comp you ever won?
That would have to be the lamest comp I’ve ever done! I was 7 years old, and it would’ve been the Border Cross and the GS Comp that I won back to back in Interschools. That’s an event that all the schools from the snow compete in. You have to have 3 people as a team, and you can also do it individually. When you do it individually, the fastest time makes it through to Regionals, State and Nationals.
So that was your first win. Have there been any other major ones since then?
I’ve won the whole Junior Series, which is Border Cross, Half Pipe and Slope Style. Slope Style is just jumps and obstacles placed down on the slope. That was last year, so I was 12. I placed second overall in the Junior Series this year too. I’ve gone up an age group too, so I’m the youngest one, and I still came second.
You’ve just come back from New Zealand, haven’t you?
Yeah, I went in the New Zealand Nationals. I thought it was rigged, because I got beaten by kids doing simple tricks – and I was doing much harder stuff!
Tell us about what happened at the World Rookie Fest this year …
That was this winter at Thredbo. I won the World Rookie Fest and got a trophy that looks a bit like a Yeti! I won a trip to Portugal and a place in the World Championships over there in April. This would probably be my biggest achievement so far.
What are some of the tricks you do?
Switch front board is one, which is where you’re going goofy footed down the hill, then jumping on to a street rail down stairs and going backwards down the rail and then doing 270 out.
What new tricks are you trying to master?
While I’m in America, I want to achieve a Double Cork. That is a 1260 or 900, with two flips in it. That’s what we call Olympic Standard, so it’s pretty hard – but that’s the standard I need to get up to.
So tell us a bit more about this training in America.
I’m going over there at the start of December for 4 months. I’ve got a high performance coach at the International Training Camp, and this is pretty much what it’s all about – getting me up to Olympic Standard.
So how’s your progress going on the Double Cork?
I can do a single cork! It’s getting there …
How do you manage school in amongst all this?
I always get asked that! I do distance education and a bit of home schooling. I do tutoring all year, besides when I go to America. It has its ups and downs – some things are easy that I get and other kids don’t, but there are things that I won’t get until Year 8. I have to play a lot of catch up.
So when are the next Winter Olympics that you’ll be eligible for?
2014 is the next Olympics, but I think I’ll be too young for that – so 2018 is what we’re aiming for.
When you’re not at the snow, how do you train?
I do long boarding (skateboarding), just rocking from wheel to wheel. As you know, a skateboard has 4 wheels, so when I’m on it I’ll roll on to two wheels, then the other two wheels, then repeat that, so it’s like carving on a snowboard.
What do you love so much about this sport?
Just the adrenalin rush that you get from landing a new trick or landing something that you’ve been trying for ages. It’s very cool!
You’ve been lucky enough to pick up some major sponsors …
Yeah, Rip Curl are my major sponsor. They’ve been with me for three years now … I was 10 when they took me on. That’s pretty major – it gets my name out there and proves there’s potential. They approached us for sponsorship. Dad was on a surfing trip with one of the team managers and showed him some pictures and he told Dad about what he does for Rip Curl and asked if I’d like a sponsor, and it went from there. They’ve been really good … the guys are just like a family when we see them in the snow. I know the team looks after me and encourages me. There’s a couple of other sponsors who are looking at me as well, but we haven’t confirmed them yet.
Thanks Matthew. Good luck in America!