By David Gold

Katie Summerhayes_innsbruck_2012_27-01-121February 18 - Ski halfpipe prospect Katie Summerhayes (pictured) has said that competing at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck this month was "the greatest experience" and something she will "never forget".

Summerhayes came agonisingly close to becoming the first British gold medallist of the Games in the halfpipe competition, having to eventually settle for fifth place.

Though she was disappointed to miss out on a medal, she was thrilled by the opportunity and sees the Games as vital experience for her future career, as she has her sights firmly set on going to Sochi for the Winter Olympics in 2014.

"At first I was a little gutted as it would have been a dream to come away with a medal, but I did as well as I could have done and I'm happy with top five," she told insidethegames.

"I'm gutted but it happens doesn't it?

"People have said it's a competition and it happens – I'm going to put everything I've learnt from this competition into the Olympics [Sochi 2014] in two years.

"My short term goal was to do the Youth Olympics but long term over two years [my goal] is to go to Sochi.

"It was great to have the Team GB kit to wear all the time and to do the whole Olympic experience.

"I made good friends from other nations and from the team as well."

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The sense of history was not lost on the 16-year-old either, chosen as the British flag bearer in the Opening Ceremony of what was the first ever Winter Youth Olympics, as well as the first time that the Olympic flame had come to the same city on three separate occasions.

"It was the first ever [youth] Olympics, and I wanted to come away with a medal – it was all an experience in itself," she said.

"It's the highlight of my career so far – to be in an Olympics at 16.

"We're really lucky that we got this chance and I definitely took it with both hands."

Summerhayes had her first ever skiing lesson at the Sheffield Ski Village at the age of six, joining the club afterwards before going on to do freestyle lessons.

She admits she was fortunate to be able to use what is the only artificial half pipe in England, and spent hours every week working on the sport.

Now she spends in excess of 10 hours a week practising, including fitting in daily visits to the gym, and regularly travels to Switzerland to use the country's halfpipe facilities.

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Summerhayes says that juggling the demands of school, where she is in her final year of GCSEs, is a difficult challenge.

"I try to juggle school and skiing but have taken a lot of time off to do skiing recently," she said.

"I do struggle a bit but do as much as I can when I have the time.

"I was still on cloud nine when I came back [from Innsbruck] and so stoked and then had to go to school next day for an exam.

"The support at home and from school has been amazing and it is all amazing."

Summerhayes is not sure about whether she will stay on at school after this year to focus on her sporting goals, but she is certain about wants she wants from her career.

"My main long term ambition is to keep representing GB at a higher level and to come away with an Olympic gold one day," she said.

At this rate, she'll probably get quite a few opportunities to achieve that goal before she's done with the sport.

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