Olympics

From bungy to big air, Hackett finds her forte

The daughter of a legendary Kiwi daredevil, Margaux Hackett is following her own bold dream in freestyle skiing - with the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on her near horizon. 

When your last name is Hackett, and your first memory is free-falling with a bungy cord strapped to your legs, there's no question your life isn’t headed in the direction of boring or mundane.

Margaux Hackett - the 21-year-old daughter of Kiwi entrepreneur A.J. Hackett, who commercialised bungy jumping - is carving her own path in the world of extreme sports.

If you fast forward 17 years from that first thrilling bungy jump, you’ll find Hackett standing at the top of the Big Air drop-in at the biggest event extreme sports has to offer, the Aspen X-Games.

The idea of hitting an 80ft (24m) jump in below freezing Aspen temperatures - with millions of people tuned in to watch - is what most people's nightmares are made of. But for Hackett, it’s a dream come true.

An invitation to compete at the X-Games is a massive honour for any extreme sports athlete, with only the top eight in the world invited to compete.

But it all seems like a distant memory now, with Hackett’s usual schedule of competing and training in all corners of the Northern Hemisphere wiped clean - Covid-19 abruptly halting her season of a lifetime dead in its tracks.

 
 

The half-Kiwi, half-French skier had plenty of places to head into lockdown. But with her mother living in Indonesia, Hackett quickly made the call to jump on a plane and head to the white sand beaches of Bali. It was a chance to recharge the batteries and reflect on an incredible few years.

Now she's back in New Zealand, and having just finished her two weeks in quarantine, she's preparing to compete in Obsidian - the new mixed team challenge event in this year's Winter Games, set across the Southern Alps, starting on August 10. 

"Growing up around the bungy world helped me push through fear from a very young age" - Margaux Hackett.

Hackett grew up in Manigod, a small alpine town perched in the French Alps, neighbouring the famous La Clusaz ski resort. With two active older brothers, and a chair lift closer to her house than a playground, Hackett was on skis at the age of four.

It was ski racing that drew her into the sport, but she quickly grew out of the structured and rigid scene of racing, and at the age of 11, Hackett joined the La Clusaz freestyle club and never looked back.

“I was tired of ski racing and wanted to do something more fun while still skiing, and freestyle was perfect,” she says. “I love pushing myself and doing crazy things too.”

Margaux Hackett competing in the freeski Big Air at the Aspen X-Games earlier this year. Photo: Gabriel Christus/ESPN

As Hackett’s passion for the sport continued to grow, she went to a snow sports specific high school at 14, allowing her to maximise her time on the slopes.

Everything changed for Hackett in 2014 when her dad took her to watch the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Standing there looking up at the Olympic slopestyle course, watching the best women in the world battle it out, was where she realised she wanted to become one of those women.

“I could relate to skiing,” she says. “So I decided then and there to really start pushing myself more and making changes in my life to get myself to that level and beyond.”

Two years later, the 16-year-old moved to the other side of the world, to a country dubbed the home of bungy jumping, thanks to her dad. Fully committed to freestyle skiing, Hackett bid au revoir to summers and began competing and training all year round with back-to-back winters.  

Narrowly missing out on the New Zealand team for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics was a tough blow for Hackett. But looking back on it now, she can see that it wasn't the right time.

“It’s probably better that I didn’t make it in 2018. Now I know I will be a lot more ready and competitive for the 2022 Beijing Games,” she says.

You only have to glance at Hackett’s results over the past two years to realise how true that statement is. Her progression has been exponential in the past year - kicking off her 2019 season with back-to-back fourth places at Big Air World Cups, including one at the Olympic Big Air venue in Beijing.

Hackett then continued that momentum with multiple X-Games and World Cup slopestyle final appearances - well and truly finding her groove and consistency in landing world class runs that stand her with the best women in the world.

Snow Sport NZ’s high performance development coach Hamish McDougall takes his hat off to the way Hackett attacks her training.

“Margaux is one of the bravest girls I know and is willing to take the hits to become the best skier she can be. She doesn’t ever go out and ski wondering ‘what if?’ It’s an inspiring trait and her skill level is there to match it,” he says.

Hackett agrees that the daredevil that runs through her blood has set her up for a life living on the edge and helped her conquer fears boldly.

“I think it's definitely had an influence on me and helped me look at things differently. Growing up around the bungy world helped me push through fear from a very young age,” she says.

“I’m super grateful to have a very supportive and crazy family.”

Even though Hackett spent her childhood in the French Alps, her 'Kiwi-ness' still shines through in her quest to become one of the best in the world.

McDougall says there are plenty of laughs in between the focus and determination during training sessions.

“Not only is she brave, but she attacks it in a way that is uniquely Margaux - and with a self-deprecating humour only a Kiwi can have,” he says.

Freestyle skiing is up there with the most dangerous sports in the world. What goes up must come down, and when you don’t come down on your feet, things can be pretty serious. It takes a special kind of mindset to push through those tough times.

“I know that I'm capable of achieving whatever I've set out to do and I’m determined to better myself so I keep going, even when things aren't working out,” Hackett says.

There is no doubt she has the mentality it takes and the talent to go with it to achieve her dream of wearing the silver fern at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

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