Words of Reflection
Women’s Olympic Snowboard Finals 2018
The past 48 hours the brutal conditions during the women’s slopestyle finals has been a hot topic, both among athletes, coaches, media and people who watched the event. It has been a discussion, weighing heavy on my heart, as I care for snowboarding and the people in it. Needless to say, Monday’s event was definitely not reflecting the amazing level I know of women’s snowboarding.
I have been competing professionally for 20 years and I have never seen snowboarding progress faster than the past 4 years. Both the men’s and women’s fields are stacked and the riders are working harder than ever, progressing the sport we love to a whole new level. It’s impressive and inspiring. Up until recently, I find snowboarding to have been quite male-dominated, but with the rapid progression these past years, women are finally starting to grab both more attention in the industry and from more mainstream channels.
Being a four-time Olympian, I know that the road to the Olympics can be hard and challenging and sometimes not even that fun... I've always told myself that if I’m not having fun, it’s not any point doing it and I try my best to stay true to these words. Yet. I would lye a little if I say I don’t care about the “end goal” as I believe it’s in our heritage as humans to celebrate when we receive some kind of a reward. Needless to say, when you invest so much energy and resources into something and qualify for the big show, the least you expect is to get a fair opportunity to perform on an elite, world stage.
As I stepped into a new role as a coach during this event, I was really excited to watch the women of snowboarding put on the show I know they are all capable of. From my own experience, I know how fun it is when you finally get to showcase what you have been working on for so long. My intention in my new position was to be the best support I could possibly be. Not just for the rider I am helping, but for anyone that might need an extra hand in the heat of the moment. These ladies also happen to be my very good friends, that I have laughed and cried with, competed against and high fived a million times before I dropped into my runs.
It has always brought me feelings of fulfillment when I can help uplift others, as they set course for their goals and dreams. This time the Olympic dream was ready to become reality for these ladies, who are working so hard and putting their bodies on the line to progress snowboarding. It was their turn and opportunity to play on the worlds biggest stage for sports and to thrive in their element
Unfortunately, we did not get to see the women of snowboarding thrive in their element of slopestyle in #pyeongchang2018 ... rather they were trying to hold on and survive. For sure they all made the best of it and more!! I was so impressed by how amazing everyone handled the challenging conditions, physically, mentally, spiritually... The bad part is that the ladies did not get a fair chance to showcase anything close to their best riding, which they so respectfully deserved.
Honestly, if it was me competing, I would not want to ride in those conditions. I would hope I had the confidence to say no, which can be tricky when you are under that kind of pressure. Add in emotional attachments, fear, stress, expectations, nerves and someone telling you that they might just cancel the whole thing... Then you got yourself a recipe for chaos, confusion, bad decision making and sometimes even apathy... It was pretty obvious that things were not working, yet the show kept going on.
I like to think that I would dare to voice my opinion as a rider, in this case having the event stopped halfway into the first round when we all saw that things were not working. Maybe my 20+ years experience as a competitive athlete would give me the courage to say no, I’m not dropping in? Or maybe not? Honestly, I’ve gotten quieter over the years, as I have often felt judged for standing up, trying to make things better for the community. I have experienced being called out to be a wimp for not being able to handle tough conditions. I guess this has made me toughen up and rather just stick with it than being honest... and maybe that is what the other girls are going through as well. I can only imagine how that feels for a younger girl at her first Olympics, with all the extra pressure and attention. I don’t know - but what I do know is that we need to draw the line at some point because there is a fine line between celebration and someone getting seriously injured.
Many say that snowboarding is an outdoor sport and we need to adapt to ever-changing weather conditions. I can connect with this, but I have also experienced that adapting sometimes means pulling back and letting Mother Nature do her thing.
Some people blame the organizers, some the coaches, some blame the rides themselves and some blame Mother nature. Who’s fault is it really? That is a complex question we may not be able to answer right away or ever at all... and it is always easier to be “after smart” - As I am not a big fan of drama, I quickly realized that I am not interested in playing “the blame game”, rather learn from this and look forward to better solutions. Since Monday’s I have had some great, constructive conversations and dialogues with riders, other coaches and people who watched the event, where we focus to seek out solutions to make better calls for the future.
My aim is always to move forward. To grow and learn from my mistakes and my celebrations. No matter what my role is, weather I’m acting as an athlete, as a coach or as something completely different, I strive is to become better at communication, be more comfortable with voicing my opinions, listening even more, be constructive and seek solutions. To me a solution in this case lies in becoming more organized, unified and get our priorities as a collective group straight. As riders, as coaches and as humans. When we get distracted by glitter, gold, money, greed and fame, we need to slow don’t and remind each other to stop and take a moment to see if it’s really worth the risk.
As the sun rises again, Mondays chaos is starting to feel more like an opportunity to reflect on something that probably needed more attention anyways... as the conversation continues I hope we will be smart enough to not let this separate us, by trying to blame each other. I manifest that this rather will bring us closer together as a snowboard community and inspire solution based conversations. Most media articles I have read has portrayed what happened in a positive figure for the women athletes. At least people seem to understand that they missed what could have been a heck of a good show!! That is at least a first step in the right direction...