I began snowboarding when I was only 7, and I like to say I started before it was cool. There was no Olympics or X Games. They barely let snowboarders on the mountains! Back then, I was the only girl among a pack of guys. Now, you go on the mountain and see five girls riding together. We’re all pushing the envelope of what we can do, and things have gotten more technical and competitive. You used to be able to do one trick and that was enough. Now it’s about the whole package -- making sure you can link everything together perfectly. Style, amplitude and technical tricks all go hand in hand.
It’s X Games week, and even though I've had a slow start this season (one event was canceled because it was too warm, then there was actually too much snow over Christmas to practice), I feel more prepared mentally and physically than ever before. Maybe it’s because I’m not looking to prove something at this stage of my career. I look at big events as an opportunity rather than a threat to take me out, and that’s the attitude that has gotten me to age 29 in a sport that tends to favor promising rookies. I’ve put in the time and built the foundation, which gives me a lot of confidence. It is nice not to have your confidence come from what goes on around you, because that is always changing.
The X Games is the place to really go for it. It has one of the best halfpipes we'll see this season; it’s pretty much guaranteed the pipe is going to be perfect. Plus, the format gives you three runs instead of the two you get in most other events. It caters to trick progressions, and that’s why you see so many firsts happen at the X Games. You can land your first run and then build on it with something harder, doing things that aren’t as stock.
I’ve got some tricks and runs I want to land, and hopefully I set my goals high enough that I’ll be riding at a level I’m happy with. There’s a specific run I’m after, but I can’t tell you what it is -- you’ll have to watch! Of course, we all want to win and be on that podium, but for me it’s about the process.
I won gold at the 2002 Olympics when I was 18 and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. But when I look at my bronze medal from the 2010 Vancouver Games, knowing what it cost me -- all the years, all the times I got back up, everything I had to put in to get back onto the Olympic podium -- that medal is more significant to me than the first.
In snowboarding, when you’re young, you’re invincible; but, for me, I really had to step back and figure out who I was apart from what I did in competition. My identity has a lot to do with my faith as a Christian, and when I'm not on snow, I’m just an ordinary person who reads, watches movies and plays guitar. I am always game for a good rom-com or classic movie, and I'm usually reading one fiction book and one that is focused on personal development -- I find that is a good balance. Playing my guitar helps me hit the reset button when I am busy on the road. I think those outside interests are what has allowed me to love snowboarding today as much as I did when I first tried it at age 7. I bring the same passion to every competition and am enjoying every moment out there. Bring on the X Games!