AERIAL skiing is by its very nature a sport of ups and downs, writes NEIL BECK. 

Lloyd Wallace, who is excitedly preparing to make his Winter Olympics debut in PyeongChang, is somebody who has sampled life at both extremes of the spectrum over the past six months.

The 22-year-old from Semley, near Warminster, describes hitting a ski jump at 60kmph and launching off to a height of 50m before performing a series of spectacular flips and twists as “the best feeling in the world”.

His passion for freestyle – in which mum Jilly and dad Robin have also worn the colours of Great Britain at the Games – remains unaffected by a training accident in Switzerland last August which left Wallace with a severe head injury and his competitive career in the balance.

He was placed in an induced coma and has no recollection of the incident at all.

Incredibly, Wallace was back on his skis in October and went on to achieve enough World Cup ranking points to become his country’s first male selection in the discipline at an Olympics for two decades.

“In any sport you wear a helmet you have to be willing to take the risk and the consequences,” said the University of Bath sports performance graduate.

“I’m extremely lucky I can’t flash back to the accident and that has been a huge help.

“I didn’t know whether I’d even be able to ski again but once we found out I could there was no doubt I would compete and get flipping.

“I’m just lucky I was in the right hands and was wearing a good enough helmet which saved my brain.

“To be able to get back up to a competitive level and qualify (for the Olympics) this season, I still can’t believe it. It seemed so intangible and yet now I’m there it’s unreal.”

Wallace, whose Olympic bid was part-supported by a crowdfunding push, made sure of his trip to South Korea for the Games with 20th and 25th-place finishes in the final two World Cup rounds at Lake Placid last month.

“It was a really nervy weekend and I had to try and push it to the side of my brain and jump as well as I could,” he said.

“I downgraded the tricks to get a good mark and thankfully it worked. Although it wasn’t the best result and I know I can get a better one, my coach and I were glad we played it that way.

“I haven’t had much time to let it all sink in. I got back from the United States and went straight to kitting-out and then travelled to a pre-Olympic training camp on Sunday.

“It’s crazy, a rollercoaster ride. I’m just glad I’ve got a ticket.”

As Wallace’s best World Cup result is seventh place at Deer Valley in 2016, he is not rated among the leading contenders for a podium spot once the men’s aerials competition gets underway on February 17 – four days after he celebrate his 23rd birthday.

He feels that could play into his hands, however.

“I’m going to go there under no pressure,” said Wallace. “I’m coming back from injury and it’s been a tough five months. There have been massive highs but also some lows.

“I’m just going to jump the way I’d like to jump and if the judges like it and I can get through to the finals then it’s three rounds of knockout stages – reducing the field from 12 to nine and then to six.

“If I’d smashed the World Cup season then there would be more pressure but I can go in relaxed and enjoy it. The enjoyment factor is a huge thing.

“I’m not expecting to win a medal, but who knows?”