At the age of just 22, the now snowboard cross world champion Charlotte Bankes was contemplating retirement. She had experienced two Olympic Games with France, but had enough.
Born in the UK but having grown up in the Alps since the age of five, Bankes was raised on the slopes. Since breaking her pelvis in 2011, it had been a struggle - and a change at the top of the elite French set-up was the final straw.
“For me at the start it was easiest for me to start competing for France,” Bankes told Eurosport.
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“Competing for a local club, it was the simple way and I represented France for eight years. I was just struggling, it was just not quite the right support.
“After Pyeongchang I was thinking, shall I give up? The French were also changing their coaching team and I wasn't happy with that, I wasn't consulted.
I thought if I continue this way, it’s unlikely I’ll see out the season. I was probably going to give up.
The 26-year old’s brother Thomas had previously represented GB, and before calling it a day, she decided to get in touch with GB Snowsport to see if the governing body could help her. It has turned out to be the perfect match - with Bankes winning gold at the World Championships in 2021 before winning two more World Cup events by the end of the calendar year.
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“GB Snowsport had a good pathway and I thought that could be a way to continue. As soon as I reached out, the support was completely different - they just wanted me to enjoy snowboarding again and that hadn't been happening for me.
“I'd spend four years just riding but not really enjoying it, and also not being able to train and it was pretty tough. I just wanted to get my health back, it was amazing support from the start. But changing to GB has been the start of a new career, really.”
Bankes began her sporting life as skier as well as a snowboarder, but also dabbled in sailing - which she eventually had to give up when she was 13. Growing up, she said she was doing “pretty well” in comparison to her peers - but was always drawn by the competitive nature of the sport.
Now she is competing with a different flag on her kit, as she heads to Beijing for her third Olympics as arguably Team GB’s greatest hope of a gold medal. So does she feel a connection to one nationality more than the other?
“I’m British but was brought up in France, I’m really happy to be competing for Britain and proud of it.
“I’m a bit of both for sure, but you’re always a bit of an expat in France. Sport was a good way to integrate.”
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