Hailing from suburban Victoria, young snowboarder Cam Bolton has had a swift ascent to the Sochi slopes after choosing the board over skiing at age 15. Along with friend and Olympic flag-bearer Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, Bolton will take on the world’s best in the men’s snowboard cross on February 17.
Bolton has already received global media attention thanks to his unique look, which perhaps leads people to draw some not-so-accurate conclusions. American talk show host Jimmy Fallon featured the snowboarder as part of his Sochi predictions segment, labelling Bolton as “Most Likely to Smoke the Half Pipe” – an innocent accusation not quite appropriate for a sport in which drugs are taken seriously.
Living up to his laidback appearance, the 23-year-old merely laughed off the incident, posting a screenshot of the show with the caption “Expecting a knock on my door from doping control in the morning…”
Here, he speaks to us straight from the Games, where the accommodation is not so bad, but language barriers and suspicious fish dishes reign supreme.
How long have you been snowboarding? What made you try it for the first time?
I started skiing when I was 10 and snowboarding when I was 12. I competed in both until the age of 15, when my coaches told me that if I wanted to compete seriously, I would have to choose one or the other. It wasn’t an easy decision, but at the time I was enjoying my snowboarding more, and that’s what I based my decision on.
I didn’t have an urge to go to the snow before the age of 10 and I didn’t really know much about it, but as soon as my parents took me up to Mount Buller, I was hooked.
What’s an average day for you like? How often do you train?
My days vary a lot throughout the year, depending on whether I’m travelling and competing or home at the beach. When I’m home I’ll usually train twice a day. Training consists of various gym workouts, interval sessions and longer aerobic sessions which help to improve my strength, power and fitness. In winter I’ll usually snowboard for half a day and then train off snow in the afternoon.
This is your first Olympic Games, on a scale of apathy to terror, how nervous are you?
Ha ha! I’d like to think I’m not scared at all but there are definitely some nerves. I think it would be weird for anyone to go to the Olympics without being nervous. I get nervous before even the smallest races, which I think is a good thing, because if you’re not nervous then I don’t think you’re ready to compete or perform at your best.
I think the Jamaican bobsleigh team got a bigger applause during the (Opening Ceremony) march than Australia!
Do you have a snowboarding idol? Have you met any of them?
I don’t have an idol as such, but I certainly look up to the way certain people do things. I have a lot of respect for Shaun Palmer and how he approached so many different sports, and had such an impact on snowboarding. He created boardercross and was constantly taking the sport to new levels. Then there are riders like Chumpy who are currently pushing the boundaries of our sport physically, as well as mentally.
I’ve met almost everyone I look up to in the snowboarding world. I’d love to meet Kelly Slater though, who has won the surfing world title a ridiculous 11 times!
It’s no secret that the journalists’ accommodation in Sochi is terrible, what’s your accommodation like? Do you have your own room?
Our accommodation is working really well. Australia has two buildings in the mountain village. Everyone that is competing or working for Australia is sleeping in one building, and in the second building we have doctors, physiotherapists, ice baths, and an athlete lounge amongst other things. I’m sharing a room with one other athlete.
What do you get up to in your downtime?
When I’m at home I surf as much as I can. I’m usually travelling for about half the year whether it is for training or competition, so I feel I need to surf twice as often when I’m actually at home!
Have you had time to explore Sochi?
I haven’t had any time to explore the city, but up in the mountains is a really amazing place. The resort we’re competing at is quite unique and it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. There’s terrain right off the top gondola which looks like it’s straight out of a Warren Miller movie.
Tried any Russian food?
They seem to love their fish! But when it’s cooked for such large numbers of athletes, I just don’t trust it.
Have you had any strange experiences yet?
I got called over to a shipping container at around midnight a day or two after arriving. There was a serious language barrier and by the hand signals they were giving me, it seemed they wanted me to climb inside the container. There was a big open padlock sitting right next to it. I thought ‘There’s no way I’m letting someone lock me in a shipping container in Russia!’ so I got out of there pretty quickly. I’m sure it was a miscommunication but I still think it was a wise decision, because the container was gone in the morning.
There has been some concern about potential terrorism at the Games, are you concerned at all?
I’m not concerned at all. The security is really thorough without being obtrusive. Russia is doing a great job and I feel very safe.
How did it feel to walk out during the Opening Ceremony?
Tingles! It gives me shivers thinking about it. When we were under the stadium getting ready to walk out, I couldn’t believe the roar above our heads. It seemed so loud and it was making the stadium shake. I think for me that’s when being at the Olympics actually became real. Although I think the Jamaican bobsleigh team got a bigger applause during the march than Australia!
Have you got any family or friends going over to watch?
Both my parents are coming across to watch, as well as my girlfriend and a couple of close mates. I’ve got other friends in the crowd too so it will be nice to see some familiar faces.
Did you bring any lucky charms or favourite Australian items with you?
Luckily the Australian team has made sure that everyone has been supplied with plenty of Vegemite. Siohban Crawshay, our nutritionist, has really been on top of it all and we have some Australian breakfast cereals as well. I try not to have any lucky charms because I like to think that you create your own luck.
Who is your closest friend on the Aussie team?
My closest friend on the Aussie team would be Chumpy. We spend a lot of time together training and surfing outside of our competition season. He’s helped me a lot over the last few years and I admire the way he approaches competition. He has a ‘take no prisoners’ mentality when it comes to racing, and I think that’s crucial in our sport.
Bolton, left, with teammates (L-R) Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, Nate Johnstone and Kent Callister.
Do you have a lucky board?
I’m travelling with eight boards at the moment but I know which one is the fastest, so that’s the one I’ll be using. They’re all very similar but a few have slight differences in the way they flex.
If you weren’t an Olympic snowboarder, what would you be doing?
If I didn’t snowboard I have no idea what I’d be doing! I’d like to think I’d have a degree and be making a lot of money, but the reality is I’d probably be living on a very small budget and surfing in a remote location somewhere in Australia.
Your hair is pretty awesome; does it get in the way sometimes?
My hair is pretty ridiculous! It’s very curly and brown, but gets bleached quickly by the sun and sea. It’s so curly that as soon as it grows a little, it naturally dreadlocks. I keep them out for as long as I can, but getting the knots out in the shower gets old pretty fast, so I just let it go.
My brother has similar hair and for one reason or another he recently counted his. I decided I’d count mine and am proud to say I had five more dreadlocks, with a grand total of 123. It gets in the way a bit but as soon as I get sick of it, I just cut it all off and start again. I don’t get attached to it.
What are you most looking forward to about the Games?
I’m definitely looking forward to competing the most. It’s a chance to do my favourite thing in the world in front of the largest possible audience, and it’s going to be a lot of fun!