Snowboarder with Winter Park ties continues Olympic legacy in Beijing debut
Growing up with an Olympic torch in her living room, Stacy Gaskill has always dreamed of competing in the Olympics.
Her mother raced in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, winning a bronze in the giant slalom for LW2 (severe lower limb) disability, so winter sports have always played a big part in Gaskill’s life.
“(More than 30) years later from my mom’s first Olympics, I get to walk in mine,” Gaskill said. “There’s not really any words to describe it, but it means everything to me.”
Gaskill, a 21-year-old from Golden who grew up snowboarding at Winter Park Resort, is making her Olympic debut in Beijing on the USA snowboard team.
“I’m really excited to bring Winter Park with me,” Gaskill said. “It feels full circle.”
Gaskill’s mom trained at Winter Park and her dad worked at the resort, which is where the two met. They got married on Mary Jane and brought up their children on the mountain, with Gaskill on Winter Park’s snowboard team for nearly eight years.
Gaskill will be competing in snowboard cross, often referred to as boardercross — a sport where multiple competitors race down a course with a variety of obstacles designed to challenge the riders’ ability to stay in control, similar to a motocross course.
Boardercross had a longer qualification period than some other Olympic sports. Instead of Olympic trials, the qualifiers were the FIS World Cups that Gaskill has been competing in throughout the past year.
After finishing eighth and then sixth at the World Cup in Russia, she had a pretty good idea that she might make the team. Still, hearing her coaches say that she had officially been nominated to the 2022 Olympics team was an incredible feeling.
“It’s those words that I’ve been working so hard to hear for 15 years,” Gaskill said. “When I heard them, I was like, ‘I don’t even know what to say.’”
Gaskill competed Saturday in the World Cup competition in Italy and took fifth place, her best result to date. Over the phone Sunday, she was staying the night in Zürich with her team before flying out to Beijing on Monday.
“I think it’s really going to hit me when we walk into the stadium during opening ceremony,” Gaskill said. “It’s this thing that’s happening, but it doesn’t feel like it’s tomorrow.”
Most of Gaskill’s boardercross teammates will be returning to the Olympics including Faye Gulini, Lindsey Jacobellis, Meghan Tierney, Nick Baumgartner and Alex Deibold along with fellow Coloradans Hagen Kearney and Mick Dierdorff. Jake Vedder is the only other first-time Olympian.
Gaskill said her mindset heading into the games is one focused on process-oriented goals. She reminds herself that while there’s a lot of hype around the games, it’s the same as every other race.
“I have everything I need to be successful there and I just need to be able to utilize that and be able to compartmentalize all of the media excitement and the energy from the actual race,” she said.
After previewing the Beijing course last year, she feels prepared for the competition. Coming off her best ever race in Italy, she’s looking optimistically at the games.
“I feel like I’m peaking at the right time,” Gaskill said.
Opening ceremonies for the Olympics are Friday, with the women’s snowboard cross competition on Wednesday and mixed team competition on Feb. 12.
Gaskill is one of two athletes heading to the Olympics with Winter Park ties. Middle Park High School alumnus Birk Irving will be making his Olympic debut on the Men’s Freeski Halfpipe. The qualification run is on Feb. 17 and final run on Feb. 19.
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