Inspirational Women: Lesley McKenna - pro snowboarder

Lesley McKenna - professional snowboarder
Lesley McKenna - professional snowboarder

Lesley McKenna is something of an anomaly. It’s not every woman who can make the leap from professional ski racer to professional freestyle snowboarder... particularly as she was already 21 years old, the first time she stepped on a snowboard.

Born in Scotland, Lesley McKenna grew up ski-ing the highland slopes. Her parents left behind city life to start up a ski shop and consequently have never battered an eyelid as their daughter went from one unusual snow-based career to another.

“I had planned to study chemistry”, Lesley says, describing it as something else she was “randomly good at”, but after she tried to defer her university place for the third consecutive year, it became clear that season’s spent in the snow was where her heart really was.

At the start of her career Lesley was part of the Young British Alpine Ski Racers team earning herself a gold medal in the 1993 Giant Slalom at the British Championships.

Lesley’s friends introduced her to snowboarding at age 21, and she bravely made the switch to snowboard racing and later onto Freestyle, ‘I was just ready for a change’ she explains, ‘but it’s all just sliding about on snow really.’

As if to prove her point, in her first season as a professional snowboarder Lesley was one spot away from qualifying for the Olympic Games.

Lesley’s Olympic experiences have been marred by bad luck so it’s at the FIS World Cup competitions where she’s been most spectacular. Lesley took home gold from her Half Pipe performance in Japan in 2003 but the following year knocked herself out of contention when she broke her jaw.

Professional snowboarding is not for the faint hearted!

Image: Lesley McKenna

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