Olympic skier Beau-James Wells was very young when he set his sights on a professional skiing career. Growing up around the mountains of Wanaka, he’d seen the possibilities firsthand when his older brothers became professional skiers. Beau-James met with early success, becoming the 2014 Junior World Champion in halfpipe, and placing 6th at the Winter Olympics later that year.
“At my first Olympics I saw what winning an Olympic medal could do for an athlete in my sport,” Beau-James says.
He took skiing even more seriously in the ensuing years, and began to train, “more like a high performance athlete,” making the most of the support provided by HPSNZ and Snow Sports NZ, all with the aim of making the podium at the 2018 Olympics. But his knee joint had other plans and a serious injury forced him out of the sport for 12 long months. Unable to do what he loved for a whole year, Beau-James says it was a period that changed his perspective. “I realised that skiing wasn’t going to last forever,” he says. “You hear a lot about how hard athletes find life without sport, but suddenly it became super real.”
Fortunately his Athlete Life Advisor Carol Goodlass was on hand to guide him. “She was super supportive and helped me figure out what to study.” Beau-James obtained a qualification in Personal Training and then enrolled in a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise through Massey University, with his HPSNZ Prime Minister’s Scholarship.
“Looking back, my time-out with injury was one of the best things to happen to me.”
Once his knee was rehabbed, Beau-James was able to return to competitive skiing in time for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, where he placed fourth in the halfpipe. Having come tantalisingly close to winning a medal, he was undeterred and set his sights on winning “a shiny medal” in 2022. But he soon found himself injured and out for yet another year. Having been in this situation before, he didn’t dwell on his misfortune and instead set about creating his own Personal Training business. He also became an Olympic ambassador, speaking to kids at numerous schools.
Now one year on, and ready to get back onto the ski field, Beau-James couldn’t be happier. “This rehab period was even better than the first one in what I could accomplish with my business and study,” he says. “I’m super stoked with it and feel even more fired up than ever to get back into the next season.”
People have commented that Beau-James seems to have a knack of always making the best of a situation.
“It’s just a matter of accepting that things like this will happen and getting on with it,” he says.
After two Olympics, and with two more in his sights, Beau-James has become the Chair of the Snow Sports NZ Athlete Leadership Committee, established to enhance athlete voice throughout the organisation. “It’s been really positive and things are happening as a result,” he says.
Beau-James meets regularly with his Athlete Life Advisor. “I wouldn’t have been able to do without her expertise,” he says, though confesses he didn’t always understood how to make the most of the Athlete Life programme. “I used to be a bit scared of the questions, like when I was asked if I’d thought about what I’m going to do outside of skiing, I wouldn’t know what to say. Now I’m clear that sports careers won’t last forever and you have to prepare for that.”