Torah Bright: Inside The Mind of An Olympic Snowboarding Champion
Olympic gold medalist, Torah Bright, strapped her feet onto a snowboard for the first time when she was 11-years-old and living at the foot of the Snowy Mountains in Cooma, New South Wales. It would take three more years for her to understand that her future lay in gliding down a snow-covered slope.
In 2007, she became the first Australian snowboarder to win gold at the Winter X Games. By then, there was no stopping her reaching the peak of her personal mountain with another gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
“It is true, I think my path was always in snowboarding,” Torah, 28, said. “It seemed to be the perfect time with the stars aligning the whole way through.”
woman with drive caught up with the world’s most famous and successful female snowboarder for a glimpse into the world of a professional athlete.
When did it first dawn on you that snowboarding could be a career?
It was the day before my 14th birthday. I was travelling abroad to compete for the first time, and was so excited to be on an airplane and see what the world had to offer. At no point did I feel like I could or would make snowboarding a career. It was purely an experience that I did not want to miss!
I traveled through North America and Europe for three months and placed well internationally with kids my age, so of course I wanted to head back and do it all over again. It was on this next trip that I found myself really going after it. This was the season that my passion became a career. I still pinch myself when I am on top of a majestic snow-covered mountain, which I call “my office”.
Back then, did you fully understand what it meant to be a professional athlete in terms of the discipline and sacrifice it would require?
My sister Rowena, who is seven years older, was a ski racer and raced for Australia in 2002 in the Salt Lake City Olympics. I grew up watching her. She had an incredible work ethic and showed me that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. I knew what it took just by watching her. I worked incredibly hard at snowboarding because I gained so much joy from it. The hardest part was being away from family and friends. That was the sacrifice.
A journalist once remarked that there was no doubt your path lay in snowboarding. Was there ever a doubt in your mind?
It was after the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver that I seriously thought it was time to hang the boots up because of a few concussions I had before the Olympics. I did not want to permanently damage myself because I still had an amazing life to live.
So I took the time to educate myself, recover properly and got back on the board.When you are recovering from injury, you cannot focus only on your physical recovery. It is also the emotional and mental aspects that are almost more important. It is learning how to quiet the doubting voices inside your head. That is a meditative and energetic process for me.
How have you grown both as an athlete and a person from your first race to this point?
If you are willing to accept life and the cards you are dealt, there are learning experiences around every corner. I feel that personal growth can have a direct impact on an athlete’s career and performance. I would not be the person I am today and ready for an even bigger life without every challenge that came my way. Sport in general has many grand teachings in many forms, from the novice to the professional.
The biggest growth for me is seeing how powerful we are as humans. When your heart, mind and soul can work together along with a good work ethic you can reach the goals you set.
There is an Albert Einstein quote that I love and apply to my life in every way – “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”
What has your training taught you about respecting your body and its limits in order to perform at your peak?
Listening to my body is one of the greatest skills I have learned from my sport over the years. It has saved me from burnout and injury. If you are not willing to put yourself first mentally, emotionally and physically when you need to, it is just a matter time until you start falling apart. Sometimes we need to take a moment to nourish ourselves and to remember that life is not work. I am new to meditation but the practice has been a huge help in finding my balance.
What have you learnt in sport that can be applied to everyday life?
It is the experiences through my 14-year career that has taught me grit and courage. Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goal or vision. It is having the stamina and focus to stick with your future and commitments every single day, for years if need be. It is living life like a marathon. Courage is directly proportional to your level of grit and I believe it takes courage to claim your true purpose in life. I hope that when I move out of my sporting career I will take my grit and courage into the next stage.
Complete this sentence. Being a champion…comes in many forms but humility and self-awareness is a good start.
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