ZOE Gillings is not one for being conventional, which is probably just as well when you are Britain's No 1 snowboard cross racer, a sport where being an exception to the norm is encouraged.

Gillings is one of Great Britain's realistic medal chances in Sochi, where she will make her third Games appearance after ranking 15th in 2006 and eighth four years later in Vancouver, which was Team GB's best snowboarding performance until Jenny Jones won slopestyle bronze last week.

However, not content with taking on the might of Canada's all-powerful snowboarding team - including defending Olympic champion Maelle Ricker and X Games winner Dominique Maltais - Gillings also has her sights set on emulating discount website Groupon. When her national governing body experienced a funding crisis, the 28-year old founded her own business, the Isle of Deals, which aims to give residents of her native Isle of Man the inside track on the best offers around.

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Gillings, now back on funding after the formation of British Ski and Snowboard, following the Vancouver Games, insists the off piste distraction is both profitable and valuable to her Olympic ambition.

"After I lost funding I knew I had to take my fortunes into my own hands. I needed to think totally outside the box to make some money, just so I could continue in the sport and doing what I love," she said. "I've got my lottery funding back now and we've got a really stable governing body in place, so I'm in a totally different position to the build-up to Vancouver.

"However, I really enjoy working on the business and, with my laptop, I can run it from anywhere in the world. However, I use every penny I make on my snowboarding, I'm not a dot.com millionaire I promise you."

Gillings is Britain's best medal hope today with ice dancers Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland and the two-man bobsleigh duo of Lamin Deen and John Baines just starting their campaigns.

"It's not a case of third time lucky because I'd like to be still involved in four years' time," Gillings said. "Statistically, if you look at the medallists at the last two Olympics they are in the early 30s. Because it's a new sport, we are only just starting to figure out what age you can go on to and peak at."

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