Welcome back to my blog! The past month has been quite a whirlwind, and I’m excited to share it all with you…
Instead of saving it for the end, I think it’s very important that I acknowledge how grateful I am before diving into the nitty gritty of my Olympic experience. There’s simply no way I could have gotten to where I am in my ski career without the people in my life. It seriously takes a village.
Between my parents, coaches, and mentors, I have been fortunate enough to have an insanely supportive circle of people who want the best for me. My mom and my dad (especially!) have been there for me through everything: all of the obstacles and unforgettable moments.
If you’re reading this blog, you’ve been a part of this journey, too, so thank you. I hope I’ve done a good job sharing it all! Read away…
Team Processing & Travels
My trip to the Olympics kicked off with team processing in Los Angeles, where we got outfitted in all of our off-hill gear, thanks to Ralph Lauren and Nike! The processing experience was pretty incredible. We also finalized many of the logistical measures required to enter China (COVID tests, customs forms, etc.). The excitement was very, very palpable as our departure date inched closer.
After a day and a half in LA, we boarded the first-ever charter flight to the Olympic Winter Games. (Thank you, Delta!!) The whole event was complete with a police escort, a special sendoff courtesy of Delta staff, and a really comfy in-flight experience that made transcontinental travel feel WAY shorter. Due to precautionary COVID measures, Team USA athletes of various sports were interspersed throughout the plane, which was pretty neat! I got to sit next to Alexa Knierim, a pairs figure skater who had already been to the Games. Over the course of the plane ride, I learned a lot more about the ins and outs of figure skating. I followed her and her partner’s journey throughout the Games (spoiler: they crushed) and even snagged a selfie with her a couple days later at Opening Ceremonies!
When we finally landed on the tarmac in China, the first airport staff I saw was wearing a hazmat suit, complete with goggles and a KN95 mask (even though they were outside). In the village itself, nearly every volunteer wore a hazmat suit, too. As we completed the many customs stops in the airport, I quickly realized how abandoned the whole thing felt. The international terminal in the airport was completely closed off for the Olympic Games. The reality of how unique this Olympic experience would be sunk in during that first hour in China.
Village Life & Qualifications Competition Day
On our first day in the village, we explored the lay of the land, sorted out our new gear, and prepared for the four days of training ahead. The village was really neat! Each country had their own apartment that housed athletes and staff; Team USA had three apartments at the back corner of the village. Because the walk to the dining hall was often FREEZING, we used bikes that made the transport fun and easy! There were three Olympic villages at this Games: Beijing (home to ice sports and the big air venue); Yanqing (alpine and sliding venues); and Zhangjiakou (freestyle/freeski, cross-country, ski jumping sites). We were in Zhangjiakou, which was roughly a 3 hour drive from Beijing!
After four days of competition training on the venue, it was finally time for the first qualifications day! (The course was so fun: it skied quite a lot like Ruka, Finland, just a bit firmer.) My absolute favorite part about the Games — hands down! — was competing. Standing in the gate immediately prior to each competition run was pretty incredible. Apart from focusing on my key words, I was very, very overwhelmed by gratitude. Making it to that moment where I had the chance to show off my hard work for the world to see…that was indescribable.
Especially prior to my first Olympic Qualification run, I was in awe of it all. I remember pushing out of the gate and internally jumping up and down at the fact that I was officially an Olympian (!!!) — and then had to focus in as the top air came up quickly.
I’d say the biggest difference between a World Cup and the Olympic Games was my perspective. In other words, I was very aware that this event in particular was the Olympics — and I wanted to perform my absolute best on the world stage. Though many of my mentors and peers had told me that the Olympics was a whole different monster because of the pressure, atmosphere, and media, I felt as though many of those external distractions were scaled back due to COVID.
The day after qualifications, we traveled to Beijing for Opening Ceremonies via the bullet train. The train traveled at 350 km/hr, which meant the travel was waaaay faster and more efficient than the initial drive up to Zhangjiakou! Once in Beijing, we were shuttled from bus, to waiting area, to hockey stadium, and finally, over to the Bird’s Nest, where the ceremony took place. I don’t have many words for what it was like to walk out of that tunnel, but that was one of the best moments of the entire Olympic experience…
Men’s Moguls Day
Men’s moguls finals took place the day after Opening Ceremonies, and the day prior to women’s moguls finals. That night definitely got me excited for my turn to compete. I was very inspired by many of the performances and simply in awe of the magic of competition in general.
Some of my favorites included Nick Page’s insanely impressive Olympic debut, with a top 5 (!!!); Cooper Woods confidently storming his way into a very stacked medal round; Walter Wallberg’s gold medal run (soooo exciting to watch!); Brad Wilson’s emotional last Olympic run of his career; and Ikuma Horishima earning his first Olympic medal after finishing every single World Cup event on the podium thus far this season!
Women’s Moguls Day!
Women’s finals day was my favorite day of the Olympics! I was simply having the time of my life. It was so, so fun to train, let the whole experience sink in, and then give it my all in competition round after round. Qualifying into the medal round (the final round of competition where the top 6 competitors compete for medals) was also pretty damn awesome. It was an honor to be among the top 6 girls in the world.
I truly would not have had even a remote chance of accomplishing this goal without my parents — and that’s an understatement. My mom and dad seriously have been my rock through it all. I deeply wish they could have witnessed my Olympic debut in person and experienced all of that emotion and gratitude right alongside me…I settled for FaceTime (see below). That was still pretty good. 🙂 And much needed in certain moments!
Though I didn’t medal in the end (that obviously would’ve been pretty neat!), I was exceptionally proud of how I skied and how I handled myself through the whole process — all the way from this prep season, through Olympic Qualifying, to the Games themselves. After I finished my last run of the night and after my long-time teammate, Jaelin, won her silver medal, I swept her into the tightest possible hug. Watching Jaelin prevail against so many odds was pretty incredible, to say the least. I was absolutely overcome by emotion: thankfulness, pride, and a whole lot of love.
Although a lot of aspects about the Games aligned with my expectations, one that didn’t was the way outside circumstances, gossip, and politics of the sport beyond my control affected my (and the entire team’s) experience at the Olympics. When it came down to competition, however, I believe all the US athletes truly showcased exactly what we had worked so hard on: our skiing. In the end, that’s what it’s always been about and that’s what it will always be about. The love of the sport is what has drawn each of us to the realm of competition, and, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s what keeps me going during tough training days, setbacks, injuries, or mental blocks. In those few hours under the lights, all of the other bullshit fell away and our sport shined. It was a night I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Wrapping Up the Games Experience
After our event, we explored the village a bit more thoroughly. Besides the apartments, there was a nail/hair salon (I got a nice haircut for free!🤪), the classic Olympic rings statue, a gift shop, a convenience store, a museum showcasing Chinese heritage, and a rec center with a gym, some games, and virtual reality sets!
Hours before our bus departed Zhangjiakou, I was able to watch Jessie Diggins claim her second Olympic medal ever (first USA women’s cross-country individual medal!!). That was pretty cool. Though I don’t know her personally, Jessie is one of my favorite athletes to follow due to her grit on the hill and her personality off the hill. Watching such a strong performance from Team USA was also a pretty incredible way to cap off my Games experience!
Our team was out of the village and headed home just a couple days after the end of our event due to COVID restrictions. Ordinarily, we’d have the opportunity to watch other Olympic events and stay for the remainder of the Games. In 2026, fingers crossed the Olympics will include Dual Moguls, so we’ll have more opportunities to compete!!
Some of the other commonly asked questions that I’ve gotten since returning from the US:
- Could you see other athletes/teams?
- We were isolated from other teams (for the most part), but that was a decision that the Moguls Team agreed upon in order to make sure we were the safest we could possibly be prior to our event! (For instance, most of us opted not to eat in the dining hall in the days leading up to our competition.) Since our first day of competition was the day before Opening Ceremonies, a good portion of the athletes and staff in the village were still arriving when we began competing. Being in contact with people who had just traveled to China would result in the most COVID risk, so we decided to wait until after our events to see others in close quarters.
- Did you COVID test?
- We had to COVID test once a day (this felt a lot like a strep test) in order to stay negative to compete!
- How was the food?
- The food we ate was pretty decent. I’ve had better in China, but I’ve also gotten food poisoning (so I’ve had worse, too!). The dining hall included a selection of Chinese foods, pasta, a salad bar, a Pizza Hut, and a KFC.
- The setup was buffet-style, but the seating area separated each individual by plexiglass — definitely an odd experience!
- Any other favorite moments?
- One Olympic tradition I had a lot of fun with was pin trading! Upon our arrival to the village, we were given a bunch of little pins with our country and sport name on them. I quickly got to trading with staff, athletes, and volunteers from other countries! Some of my favorite pins included Andorra (thanks to pure luck, I met one of the only three athletes who were competing in the Games!), Italy, Argentina, and a few specially made Team USA pins! By the end of our stint at the Games, my accreditation lanyard was absolutely covered in pins. 🙂
Once I returned home, it felt like my life slowed down a ton. It was odd to watch the Olympics on TV after I had been there mere hours ago…it seemed like a world away already. Seeing my family and getting to spend time with them and celebrate was long, long overdue.
It also felt weird to stop training completely for a week or so. Ever since the finishing touches of our prep period at the end of November, it felt like I had been living life at 100 miles an hour — all geared towards the Olympic Games. Now, it was over. I wasn’t necessarily upset that it was all over, it just felt different.
Thankfully, I had my parents to spend time with at home in Park City and a great community in Steamboat, which (once again) welcomed me with open arms and celebrated both my successes and the ongoing successes of Steamboat Olympians who were still competing in Beijing. I got to meet tons of youngins at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, play around on the resort during some epic powder days, and catch up with mentors and friends.
Also upon returning home, some of my teammates and I got the Olympic rings tattooed. We went together as a group — a mix of moguls Olympians from 2018 and 2022 — to celebrate all of our successes over the years! What I love most about my tattoo is what it means to me: rather than immediately making me think of the Olympic experience itself, that art on my body reminds me of the journey, everything I’ve put into this sport, and the person I’ve become as a result.
Here’s to continuing that journey! The season isn’t over just yet: 3 World Cups remain (Valmalenco, ITA — 3/12, Megeve, FRA — 3/18-19), as well as US Nationals (Palisades, CA — 3/25-27).
Below are all of my favorite remaining photos from the Games!