top of page
DSC04871.jpg
The Women's Sports Alliance

PRESENTS...

Zoe Atkin – skiing and sibling success after post-Olympic depression

“I thought I was going to be on the podium all the time, the Olympics was a real ego check,” – freestyle skier Zoe Atkin tells the WSA.

Image from FIS, ‘smugmug’


Her surname is etched into British winter sport history, with sister Izzy Atkin becoming the nation’s first-ever Olympic medal-winning freestyle skier at the PyeongChang 2018 Games.


It brings prestige, but also pressure – something Zoe, 4.5 years her sibling’s junior, is all too aware of. Her own achievements though suggest she is more than capable of not only living up to the name, but furthering the Atkin legacy.


It is a success story which could have been etched into American chronicles or even those of Malaysia, with the sisters born in the USA to a Malaysian mother. However, much to the delight of Team GB, they opted to compete for their father’s nation.


After securing her first World Cup title at the age of 16 in 2019 Zoe went on to claim senior World Championship bronze in 2021 and was unsurprisingly seen as a leading Olympic medal-prospect heading into Beijing 2022.


There though she would finish a “devastating” ninth in the halfpipe and she suffered a post-Olympic “depressive episode” which left the skier considering her future in the sport.


Since returning to the sport though she has won World silver and earlier this year claimed her own slice of history by becoming the first British woman to win a Winter X Games title.


“The podiums mean so much, but I’m happy just to feel that excitement when I put my skis on or go training again because for a while I really struggled,” Zoe tells the WSA.


PRESSURE TO PERFORM, ON AN OLYMPIC SCALE



With her sister ruled out of the Games after breaking her hip two months before the Olympics and another freestyle medal-prospect Katie Ormerod struggling for form after her own injury struggles, it was hoped that Zoe could step in and step up.


“I definitely felt I had a lot of expectations on me,” she admits.


“But I honestly thought a lot of the pressure came from myself and I think I crumbled under a lot of it last season, which is why I think I ended up not doing well.”


After her run of sustained success in the three years leading up to Beijing 2022, her result at the Games came as a shock.


“I struggled coming to terms with my performance, the anti-climactic nature of my whole season and I couldn’t believe it was over,” Zoe recalls. “It was four years of hard work gone in 30 seconds and the post-Olympic depression was very real for me.”


LEARNING TO LOVE SKIING AGAIN


Image from FIS, ‘smugmug’


Zoe, like most Olympians, took time off after the Games but it was only when she attempted to return to the sport that she realised the extent of the problem she was experiencing.


“I went skiing and it was so bad,” she confesses. I did not do like a single trick.


“I remember I went to Mammoth (USA) for the spring training camps I usually do every year and there were multiple days when we would drive to the hill and then I'd be like, ‘I cannot put my skis on’ and we just turned around and drove back home.”


The World Cup winning athletes realised she needed to “take a step back” and with her sister Izzy also in need of recuperation after her pelvis injury the pair took time out.


“She’d had quite a rough time and we decided to take a little Europe vacation, so we had some sister bonding time, which was great,” Zoe tells the WSA.


“I was able to go to school in the fall as I just started university and that really provided something else for me to focus on and to work towards, which became my focus.


“I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do another (ski) season or not, but I decided I’d give it one more try and see how it goes and I found myself enjoying training.


“I’d had this big ‘mental reset’ and I was back, hungrier than ever.”


A HISTORY-MAKING MEDAL-WINNING RETURN


Images from @zoeatkin


Motivation do not guarantee medals, but it certainly helps and the refreshed skier returned as an arguably strong force than before – something she demonstrated at the X Games in early 2022.


“It was my first event since the Olympics, so after almost a year and just tried to take a step back,” says Zoe. “I wanted to enjoy the event, be really be proud of my skiing rather than thinking like ‘oh, if I land this I'm gonna podium’ so I tried to take the pressure off myself.”


It worked.


“I ended up winning, which was amazing,” she states with a beaming smile.


“Growing up like the X Games was THE event, before it (freestyle skiing) was an Olympic sport the X Game was the pinnacle which some people still think, so I can’t believe that I won it!


“I think the important thing was just remembering why I was doing it though and how I didn’t start the sport to win the Olympics or X Games, it was because I loved it and I had to find that love again. Now I’m having more fun that I’ve had in a long time!”


BRITAIN IS A WINTER SPORT NATION



Zoe is part of a group of talented young female freestylers – together with her sister Izzy, as well as Mia Brookes and Kirsty Muir – who are currently making great strides in disproving the old notion that Britain ‘is not a winter sport nation’.


“It’s so, so awesome,” says the skier of the British medal-winning potential.


“I think the British team were hoping for one medal and then we won three, with Mia (Brookes) getting that amazing gold in snowboard slopestyle.


“I mean she’s world champion, at 16, which is just crazy and all of the hype around that.


“It’s nice to be part of such a cool team, with so much support, friendliness and of course Kirstie is killing it too so it’s just awesome!”


THE FUTURE AND MILANO-CORTINA 2026


Image from @zoeatkin


While there are still over two and a half years to go until the next Winter Olympics, thoughts will soon turn to those Games and after her post Beijing struggles, she is feeling very positive about the future.


“I'm definitely super stoked about it,” she says. “I kind of tend to like ride my momentum, so went I’m doing well I’m really excited to sky and when I’m doing badly I don’t want to ski!


“I'm really happy with the way my whole season went. I'm super excited to go into this break with a really positive attitude and feeling good about my skiing.”


Zoe was in South Korea to watch her sister claim a historic bronze at PyeongChang 2018, while Izzy then turned team cheerleader for the Beijing Games.


They hope to be able to compete together – be it in different disciplines, as Izzy focuses on Slopestyle and Big Air, while Zoe specialises in Halfpipe – come the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.


“That'd be amazing,” she tells the Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA).


“I was pretty upset that she wasn't able to compete (in China) and do what she wanted to, but it is always great to spend time with her and hopefully we’ll be able to share that experience.


“It would be unforgettable!”


Image from FIS, ‘smugmug’

Comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page