PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 17 (Reuters) - But for Sarah Hoefflin’s firm allegiance to Switzerland, Team Great Britain could well have been celebrating two skiers on the slopestyle podium at the Pyeongchang Games on Saturday.
The 27-year-old Hoefflin, who spent her teenage years growing up in England and went to university in Cardiff, claimed the gold medal and celebrated a Swiss 1-2 with team mate Mathilde Gremaud at the Phoenix Snow Park.
Isabel Atkin claimed the bronze, Britain’s first Olympic medal on skis.
All of Hoefflin’s friends in Britain were crowded around televisions watching the triumph on her Olympic debut but the Swiss said she would give short shrift to any late offers of citizenship.
“No, I’m not British. Sorry!” she told Reuters.
“But England is a place that means a lot to me. I lived there a long time and all of my friends are in England and they were watching today.
“I still think a lot about Great Britain but sorry I’m not going to change countries, sorry, I’m staying Swiss.”
Cut from a different cloth from the teenage talents of freestyle skiing, Hoefflin only started the extreme sport after university.
Returning to Switzerland, she later entered a freestyle skiing competition purely because the winner could get a new pair of skis.
On Saturday, she pulled out her best routine when it counted in the third and final run, scoring a 91.20 to pip 18-year-old team mate Gremaud by 3.20 points.
Gremaud was courageous in winning the silver, having banged her head in a training accident the day before and been rushed to hospital in an ambulance.
Hoefflin was grateful to Gremaud for showing her the winning blueprint with her first run of the final when she scored an impressive 88.00.
“Honestly, I was just congratulating Mathilde the whole time,” said Hoefflin. “She’s just come back from injury and she’s had a really tough start to the year.
“And today, she just completely out of nowhere just came out and just had these awesome tricks and it was so impressive.
“She was the one who just completely motivated me to do the switch double-nine which was a trick she’d done just before I did. So thanks to Mathilde for that.” (Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)