“Oh shizzle – this place is crazy!” Sarka Pancochova is all smiles as she bounds into Hangar-7, Red Bull's stunning glasshouse full of aeronautical and automotive treasures at Austria's Salzburg Airport, for the first time, a whirlwind of energy. Anyone who knows this snowboarding prodigy would tell you this is nothing unusual: excitement is Sarka’s default emotion.
Though still recovering from knee surgery, she has plenty to smile about: the 20-year-old from the Czech Republic is changing the face of women’s snowboarding with her uncompromising style. She’s been named Rookie of the Year 2010 by Snowboarder Magazine, won the first-ever women’s quarterpipe world championships and is currently ranked third in the TTR World Snowboard Tour. Not bad for a rider approaching only her third season as a pro.
So you’re staying at the Red Bull Diagnostics and Training Centre (DTC) here in Salzburg for a few weeks to get back on track after your surgery?
Yes, I tore my anterior cruciate ligament [ACL] in my left knee. I’ve been out for three months and I have another three to go before I can compete. I’m not even sure how I did it. But it’s cool as now I’ll be more inspired this season, like ‘get me out there!’ And the DTC is cool. You have physiotherapists, psychologists and coaches all working out what’s best for you and how to train.
"I want to be the best. But there’s definitely so much more to do." –Sarka Pancochova
So you’re being your usual, positive self, then?
It could be worse. Surgery was pretty cool. It was done under local anaesthetic and they had a partition there so I couldn’t see any of the gory stuff, but on a screen I could see what they were doing inside my knee. I could see the surgeon screwing the ligaments back together. I’m quite proud of the scar.
An editor of Snowboarder Magazine recently said you were the best overall female rider in the world today. Is that how you see yourself?
Oh, he was kidding [laughs]. No. I don’t know. Maybe. I want to be the best. But there’s definitely so much more to do. Learning new stuff makes me so excited, so if I have snow and a board, I’m happy.
Would you agree that women’s snowboarding is moving to another level?
Yes, everything’s growing so fast for girls’ snowboarding. Guys’ snowboarding is already big in terms of tricks: they do doubles, some even do triple flips. But the gap is closing. It’s a physical thing, but attitude plays a part. Now loads of girls are like: “Right, let’s push it, let’s progress,” which is perfect. I’m very excited about this season. I’ll be practicing a double backside rodeo as soon as I’m back on snow.
Read more of this interview with Ruth Morgan in the September 2010 issue of the Red Bulletin, which you can download here.