Olympian, Aerial Skier, Author
What was your favorite part about being an AERIAL skier?
Believe it or not, I'm afraid of heights which never made it easy to do a sport that launches athletes 50 feet in the air...with skis on! So it may come as a surpise that what I loved most about aerial skiing was the risk and rush involved with the sport. There is a huge sense of accomplishment facing your fears straight on and conquering them. It was incredibly scary, but also incredibly invigorating.
If you were not an athlete/author, what would you be?
It is incredibly hard to think of what I would have been if I weren't an athlete. Sports have shaped so much of my life and who I am. My success on the slopes led to a career as a motivational speaker and inspirational author and they are jobs that I truly LOVE!! It feels so unbelievably rewarding to have people tell you that they are going to change something in their lives because of something you said or wrote.
What is your career highlight?
My career highlight is easily overcoming a spinal injury in which 10 doctors told me would permanently take me out of aerial skiing to win America's first gold medal in the sport. At 5 years old, I built my own podium out of tables and charis and told my parents I would win the Olympics someday, so to stand on the real Olympic podium was literally a dream come true. It made all the hard work, risks, pain, tears, and sacrifices worth it.
Who were your heroes growing up?
My first hero was a woman named Nadia Comaneci who was a young gymnast from Romania. Nadia was the first (and one of the only ever) to score a perfect socre on a gymnastic event. I'm happy and proud to call her a friend today. She even honored me by contributing a story to my best selling book, When Turtles Fly. I also greatly admired Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen (both extremely successful speedskaters). Bonnie and Dan are both friends now as well and even greater than their success on the ice is their quality personalities.
What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject in school was Psychology - and more specifically Sports Psychology. I love analyzing how and why people do what they do. And Sports Psychology gave me a better understanding of myself and my competitors and gave me that little extra edge I needed to win my Olympic medal.