An Olympic debut
Until a week ago, I was just a 20-year-old professional slopestyle and halfpipe skier. Then with one final competition, my life changed. I became a member of the first-ever U.S. Olympic freeskiing slopestyle team!
I dreamed I would get to tack on the title “Olympian” to my name someday, but never thought I would get to help debut a new Olympic sport.
I started skiing when I was 2, and I wanted to be Picabo Street. But my older brothers, Sean and Chris, had other plans for me. I was their youngest sister, whom they treated like a little brother, and they wanted me to do the freestyle disciplines with them.
I was always tagging along, so I tested out their sports and quit trying to be an Alpine skier. I was put into the Mount Snow freestyle program, but eventually I got out of moguls, because everyone was doing backflips in the moguls and I hate backflips. (Seriously, I still do!)
I stuck with the other disciplines, like slopestyle and halfpipe, but it wasn’t an easy journey. In August 2012 I was training in New Zealand at the slopestyle World Cup, and feeling pretty good because I’d just won the halfpipe World Cup days before.
I went too big on a jump and crashed -- big time. I knew I did something bad because it hurt, it really hurt. Sure enough, I had a torn ACL, torn meniscus and two microfractures that my doctor said were the worst microfractures he’d ever seen.
My injury cost me the rest of the 2012-2013 season, which was far from ideal leading up to my sport’s Olympic debut. It hurt my qualifying points total and kept me from progressing with my peers.
I was angry, depressed, frustrated and all-around annoyed. I had been having one of my most successful seasons, and now I would be stuck in the gym rehabbing all season long.
But a friend of mine, former pro skier and now freeski judge Steele Spence, suggested that I come to an AFP and FIS judging-certification clinic in Park City. He thought I might have some time that winter to help out in the judges’ booth and bring in some new perspective.
This was just what I was looking for. It kept me in the game so that I could watch my peers and understand how halfpipe and slopestyle are scored. It was just the ammo I was looking for for my next season -- the Olympic season.
All of last summer was spent chasing snow and jumping on trampolines to prepare for the season. I missed doing my favorite thing in the world, and I also really missed competing.
At the World Cup opener in August 2013 in New Zealand, however, I was back. I won it, and it was some pretty awesome redemption after all that rehab and downtime. It also made me even hungrier for the Olympics.
Going through the Olympic qualifying process was intense: It was five competitions, all packed into December and January. The best two results counted for qualifying, and I was trying to make the team in both halfpipe and slopestyle.
It may sound crazy to have had so much on my plate, but I’ve been competing in both disciplines since I was that teenager following in my brothers’ footsteps, and I don’t know life without competing in both of them.
Slopestyle went great, right from the beginning: I took the win in the first qualifier, the Dew Tour at Breckenridge. But in that same event, I eked into halfpipe in the last qualifying spot and didn’t podium.
After the qualifiers were said and done, I was able to take two slopestyle wins, which gave me my spot to Sochi. A third- and a fourth-place finish in halfpipe, though, weren’t enough to get me on the halfpipe team. I was hopeful that I would be given the discretionary spot, but it didn’t go my way.
While I am sad and disappointed that I didn’t attain my goal of going to the Olympics in both of my disciplines, I am thrilled to be on the Olympic team for slopestyle. I’ve worked my butt off to get where I am and it hasn’t just been me -- it’s been a whole family affair.
My parents have been a constant source of support and have taken me to countless events. My two older sisters (who are amazing athletes in their own right -- both went to college on softball scholarships!) helped me through college and were my tutors, and taught me how to keep balance in my life. My two older brothers were constantly pushing me to ski hard “like the boys.” (My sisters also told me that I “threw like a girl,” which is why I never played softball!)
I worked six summer jobs to pay for my skiing, and all the sacrifices along the way have been worth it for that moment when I was named to the team. The honor of being an Olympian is something so unique and special that I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet.
I think it will sink in on the plane to Russia, when I am there with my teammates and friends. Right now, I am so excited to tackle this next chapter: February in Sochi!