We caught up with the current World #1 snowboard cross athlete during the week to fill us in on his past year and where to from here. Hughes has been the real success story of the 2013/2014 season, coming back from major surgery to win his first ever World Cup event and rocket to number 1 in the world rankings. All this at the age of just 18. One thing that’s for sure, he is no ordinary teenager.

Hughes first broke onto the scene in 2012 when he won silver in the Junior World Championships. In his first ever senior WC event in Stoneham, Canada, Hughes finished a very impressive 10th and backed that up with 11th. During the 2013 season he suffered a major injury. He suffered an acute ACL rupture. In his own words “ I was lucky it was a clean rupture without any other major damage, other than some bone bruising

Unlike most people who rupture their ACL Hughes didn’t sit back and let it get the better of him. “I got flown back to Australia and quickly got opinions from the two best knee surgeons in the country and their advice based on the time and limitations of the Olympic Qualification process was get stuck into a very specific rehab program and get back to World Cup without an ACL. Once the season was over then review the need for surgery. I actually got back to World Cup after 3 weeks of intense rehab with the Sydney Uni sports Science team, competed at Veysonnaz where I qualified 12th then came back to Australia for the surgery. It was a very calculated plan by my dad that has obviously worked.” Hughes went under the knife as soon as the season was finished and had an Achilles tendon allograft ACL reconstruction. This kept him away from his board for over 7 months.

Somehow he managed to turn his tragedy into a triumph.“I saw it as a positive, it was an opportunity to get fitter and stronger than I had ever been and to do this in a way that was personalised to me as an athlete and for my sport. I knew that I had to hit the snow ready to race to be able to stay in the hunt for the Olympics and that was all I was focused on!” And by God did Hughes hit the ground running. Up first was Montanof Austria where he finished 8th,  his first ever top 10 finish. Not content with this it was onto Lake Louise Canada where Hughes blitzed the field to take home the gold and along with that the world #1 ranking. When asked how did it feel to win your first ever WC event he responded “Winning my first world cup event felt amazing there aren’t to many word in the english language to explain how i felt. But the feeling of joy around me from my coaches Jon Casson and Cody Brown, wax tech Jeff Sadis, my Dad and team mates from Team Utah was what meant the most to me.” Proving that He was not just a flash in the pan Hughes went to Andorra and finished an impressive 11th to retain his #1 ranking.

We asked Hughes what were his feelings going into The Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and his response was not what you would expect from your average teenager “I don’t really know yet I am just taking it day by day and just having fun with my riding, I have been helping out with the Australian Paralympic Snowboardcross team which keeps you pretty centred with the realisation that regardless of how big the Olympics are there are other things that are more important. I have got one more comp to do before Sochi which is my first X-Games and then after this I am sure it will all start to sink in but I know that this road to Sochi is going to have a way better result than my last trip for the test event - I am feeling confident in my riding and confident that I can have a real crack at a medal!

Hughes has come a long way in a short time and it almost feels as though his injury has helped him mature greatly both as an athlete and a person. It really is a truly inspirational story of how a positive attitude, dedication and a passion for a sport can get you to wherever you want to be. He is also very humble about his success and says “if it wasn’t for my Mum and Dad who have supported and believed in me through everything, Coach Jon Casson, NSWIS and Tom Carter from Sydney Uni Sports Science Department I would be nowhere

We are delighted to have you on our team and really look forward to what the future brings. 

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