This was your first Olympic competition, and you managed to look so calm before your gold-medal run. What was that moment like for you?
“In the Olympics, there’s so much pressure and so much that is unknown. I wanted it [a medal] so badly, but I also wanted to be okay with whatever the universe had planned for me. Right before I dropped in, I had a little moment of dedicating that run to everyone who helped me get to that exact place and to all the people that believed in me and were rooting for me. Instantly it just brought a wave of calm, from my crown to my heart. It just grounded me.
How has your life changed since the games in Sochi?
“My life has gotten a lot busier, but it hasn’t changed a whole lot. I’m still my true self, and I try to find balance and joy everyday. And, although I’ve been extremely busy, probably the busiest I’ve ever been in my whole life, I try to be mellow when I can.”
But finding that calmness and stability with such a crazy schedule isn’t easy. How do you keep a clear head?
“For myself, it’s all about going to a place of gratitude and appreciation. It’s really easy to wake up and feel overwhelmed with things. But, I try to reverse that and wake up with gratitude for the new day, for my health, for the sun shining, for all the little things we often take for granted. And then, by reflecting on how lucky I am to be busy and able to explore. I’ve been so blessed with snowboarding, now it’s about doing what I can to make a positive influence in someone else’s life. It’s about finding that purpose every day.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
“Live for the moment. It’s all about your perception. When you can change the way you look at things, the things you look at start to change.”
Easier said than done, especially when your career is all about securing the next win. Who shared this advice with you?
“I have so many teachers in my life. I can learn something from everyone — both good and bad. It’s important to have an open mind, and use every moment to change, learn, and grow. Sometimes it’s the most random stuff — like chatting with someone at the airport — that helps you. You never know when you’re going to have the opportunity to connect with someone and learn something new.
How do you get into the zone when you’re not feeling at the top of your game, but you still have to train or compete?
“Just breathe. Your intuition is more in tune than you think. I’ve found that if we can just quiet down the chatter and get away from the ego, and connect with the soul and spirit, we can rise above anything.
What makes you feel unstoppable?
“Having determination — setting goals and working hard to achieve them. Also, it’s powerful knowing and feeling like you are capable of doing anything you believe in.”
So, it comes from within?
Not qualifying for the Vancouver Winter Olympics for the half-pipe event seems like it was a setback. How did you overcome that hurdle?
“I like half-pipe, but I didn’t really love the event. My heart wasn’t in it. So, when I didn’t qualify for the Vancouver Olympics, I wasn’t bummed by it. I was just happy to ride [in the terrain] park, and do the X Games, and other events I was content and happy doing. Then literally a year later, they add my event. It was such a rewarding feeling knowing that I was at peace with what was, and then the universe opened the gate and gave me the opportunity to participant at that Olympic level of events, but in something I really love and am passionate about.”
Being in the spotlight can bring a lot of criticism. How do you stay true to your authentic self?
“You have to let go what other people think. No matter what you do or where you are, people are going to judge you. You have to just know that it’s none of your business. If you believe in yourself, who cares what others think. Let that be fuel for you to work harder.”
To get where you are — being the best in your field — you have to constantly innovate and take risks. What have you learned?
“Learning new tricks — the stuff we’re doing is really next-level, it’s big and dangerous. You have to be in tune with yourself and trust your instincts and find that balance between the fear and the excitement. If one thing is off, it can go extremely wrong. So making sure I’m really connected to myself is important. Almost every time I’m stuck in my head or overthinking something is when I get injured. You’re using your physical, mental, emotional self [on the slopes] — all of the elements need to be connected in order to accomplish it.
So it seems like you really need to be confident and have a strong mind-body connection to have a smooth run on the slopes.
“100 percent. You can see it in your riding when someone is calm and content: They look graceful and effortless — if I’m stressed out, or not feeling well, I can see it in my riding and attitude. It’s always about finding that connection and being in harmony.”
What type of foods do you eat to fuel your training?
“I like to eat local, organic food. I don’t eat a lot of meat, I mostly eat a plant-based diet – different types of rice, beans, grains, vegetables, and lots of salads. I’ve also been getting into ayurvedic foods lately. Basically I try to eat real, wholesome foods.”
Snowboarding, and other extreme sports, are typically seen as a male-dominated activity. Have you ever felt affected by this prevailing masochism?
“People compare the men and women, which is just outrageous. Everyone is out there doing the best they can. Whether the level of riding is different between males and females, has nothing to do with the personal progression that comes with any athlete.”
Despite the fact that the other women are your competitors, you can see the camaraderie on the slopes. Why is it important to support your fellow female snowboarders?
“Because they’re awesome! I see that in a lot of sports, where there’s that catty energy. But, we all encourage each other to be our best. These women, my competitors, are some of my biggest teachers. Instead of being jealous or insecure of something awesome that they’re doing, I try to look at it from the perspective of wow that’s so inspiring, if they can do that, maybe I can work hard and do that too.”
The catty energy will weigh you down – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
“Yeah, it’s so liberating to be in a positive environment, and I try to inspire that wherever I go. I really want to encourage kids to look out for each other, to want to see the best for their friends and competitors. We need more of that — we need to encourage each other. I have no control over anyone else, or what happens in life, I just have myself, so I try to live my example and be the change I want to see.”
In the past you’ve said it’s not about being the best, so what is it really about for you?
“For me, it’s about having fun. If it’s not fun, I’m not doing it. Life is too short and too precious and you can’t take things too seriously. So, I don’t focus on being the best, I try to be better than I used to be. Going into the Sochi Winter Olympics, I really wanted to do well, but I had to accept that I am still a good person, with or without a gold medal. It’s freeing letting go of that attachment.”
“I’m going to continue working hard, staying healthy and fit. I want to compete in the next Winter Olympics, but right now, I’m going to take it easy. I’m going to take a step back, reflect, relax, and focus on my charity.