Winter Olympics: Once-in-a-generation athlete Kirsty Muir aiming for Team GB’s first medal of Beijing 2022

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Kirsty Muir likes nothing more than flipping her way through the air.

For her, there isn’t anything that comes close to that adrenaline rush – caught between a determination to land her latest trick and the realisation one wrong move could have damaging consequences.

At 17, Muir has barely put a flip wrong, labelled by three-time British Olympian Lesley McKenna “a once in a generation athlete”, and is into the Big Air Winter Olympic final on Tuesday where she could be Team GB’s first medal of the Games.

When aged just 16, she had already picked up a World Cup podium and has long since been seen as the rising star of GB Snowsport.

And of the McKenna accolade, she said: “I wouldn’t know because I would never call myself that. It’s just there’s so many amazing athletes at a similar age so I don’t think that.”

While many of her peers in Beijing will have just one focus on their mind – their Olympic runs – Muir travelled to China with her school books as she prepares to study for her Highers, her end-of-school exams at home in Scotland.

“I take my school books in my carry-on in case my bag goes missing, which makes my carry-on pretty heavy,” she said.

She has split her final year over two years so has already sat her exams in biology, maths and French while exams still await this year in chemistry, history and PE.

Due to her travel to training and competition, much of her school learning has been done remotely, and as a teenager the juggling act does not always go perfectly.

“It’s tricky and I’m not getting amazing at it,” she said. “But I’ve found a way to get a good mix of both. When I’m home I focus down at it.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Out of school and on the slopes, her rise has been meteoric. She grew up idolising the likes of GB star James ‘Woodsy’ Woods, a trailblazer for freestyle skiing in the UK and now her Olympic teammate.

For Woods, Beijing will likely be his Olympic bow; for Muir it is almost something of an added bonus, and her age and inexperience, she argues, are contributing factors.

“I think being young, I know I’ve got a lot of time to do what I’d like to do,” she said. “I’ve definitely had lots of experience with the nerves so it’s helped me to be more calm in the competition. But the thing with my age, I’ve got time.”

Growing up, it was a mixture of the dry ski slopes and nearby resorts to her Aberdeen home. From there came the step up to the GB national ranks, then the Europa Cup where she won on debut, and finally the World Cup where she has enjoyed that podium success, along with a Youth Olympics silver medal back in 2020.

On that World Cup placing, she admitted: “That was a really incredible experience. I was really happy after that. I didn’t expect it and it was on my third run, I decided to do my double and get on podium and was happy to land it as I’d fallen twice before.

“There’s no other feeling like doing a flip in the air – the adrenaline off it is just so good.”

Like many of her peers, it was a run that comes with musical accompaniment as it does every time. Her artists of choice are currently the Arctic Monkeys or else something with “good flow to it and beat”.

As she puts it, it “helps block out the doubt”. On the evidence in Beijing, the doubts appear to have been minimal. There may have been crashes in practice but none in qualifying with the suggestion being she is holding back bigger tricks for the final.