Yesterday was the 9th time that I’ve turned south off of Interstate 70 onto CO-82 for the Winter X-Games in Aspen, CO and will mark my 8th Winter X-Games appearance. (It would be my 9th appearance, but I was sidelined last year with a knee injury and attended the event as a spectator. You can read about that trip here.) I couldn’t help but recount the feelings of anticipation that I’ve had every year, each year markedly different, but this one feels extremely special. Most of my peers that I began this journey with 10 years ago are retired and no longer competing, male and female alike. The girls that I would go to registration with, eat, train and party with are no longer by my side. I will be, at 26 years young, the OLDEST competitor in the WXG women’s ski halfpipe field this year and the ONLY woman to have competed in the first women’s WXG ski halfpipe event in 2005. As I made the journey to Aspen yesterday, I felt extremely nostalgic, lonely and proud- honored, to still be here, pursuing my dreams after a decade of hard work,devastating injuries, and the passing of friends.
I recalled how excited I would get each year heading into town, thinking of the great halfpipe that we would be able to ski, story-lining my imagined success of landing new tricks and landing on the podium. I’ve never driven to Aspen for X without the belief that I could win, but this year I have. My knee is not yet 100% normal from my injury sustained over a year ago on January 10, but my strength is at 98% of what it was at my strongest in the fall of 2011. I am able to ski, but the image that I have of the skier I once was is something I have let go of. That’s not to say that I will never do the tricks that I once did before, or that I will never stand atop a podium again, but it’s not going to happen right now. It’s a humbling feeling and an honorable one, to still want to go out, naked, exposed and vulnerable, to allow a judging panel to tell me that I’m not number 1.
For the first time in my career I’m not worried about wining, being the best, or being better than everyone else. I’m focused on doing the best that I can, with what I have, where I am. It’s a mindset that I’ve been told about for the last decade, one that is written about in every sports psych book on the market, but one that is scary to adapt, when the will to win carried you so far for so long. It’s exciting to be in a place where I can watch these young girls throwing both way 900s, filling their runs with more technicality, switch hits, amplitude and grabs, and just feel proud- proud for them, and proud for myself, that I am still here, now, just skimming above the dogfight, doing my own thing. I can’twait to do some of the big tricks that are in my arsenal, but if I don’t respect my body and I don’t accept where I am right now, I will never be able to do them again.
My sights remain set on competing in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia and the only way to get there is through living every day doing all I can. Though my circumstances have changed, my end goal doesn’t need to. Sometimes we have to take a few steps backward in order to move forward again. It’s in this time that people often doubt themselves, doubt their ability to improve and decide it’s time to quit. But a lot of the time, this is when you are inches away from your greatest success.
“The secret of life is to fall seven times and get up eight times. Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” Paulo Coelho