With some ups and downs in her Olympic career, Mammoth, Calif. skier Stacey Cook is hoping a trip to Sochi will be just the ticket to fulfill her gold medal hopes.
We caught up with her to find out more about those hopes and dreams.
When did you start racing Downhill?
I started racing when I was 6 years old, but didn't start with the speed events until I was 17. I was held back from those events until I moved to Mammoth in 2001. The Mammoth coaches recognized my frustration with the tech events—slalom and GS—and saw that I wanted to just go fast. They put me on the fast track to learn the speed disciplines and I did well right away in my very first downhill race. I haven't looked back since and am so grateful to Mammoth and those coaches for leading me down this path.
What were your first Olympic games in 2006 like?
I was still relatively young and inexperienced at the international level. I made the team as a surprise member, knocking out some of the veteran girls. I was so excited and wide-eyed at the whole experience, and I really learned a lot. Mostly, I learned that you don't go to the Olympics for the experience—you go to win! It changed my mindset about what my goals really were.
How have you grown as a racer since then?
Maturity and experience have helped me so much. I ski more within myself how than I used to when I didn't think I belonged with the best in the world. I skied with reckless abandon and made so many mistakes. I've learned to trust that I am a small-town, modest girl who can be the best in the world. I just do the best I can and it's enough—it's amazing, and so much more fun!
In 2010, you had a serious crash in the Vancouver games during training. What was it like to race only five days later?
I was so nervous and scared. I don't remember crashing or the helicopter ride, and 5 days later I was back in the start wondering what had happened that took me down so hard. I was still so sore too. I couldn't move my head from the whiplash and that isn't good when I was about to go 70 mph down a sheet of bumpy ice. But I convinced myself that I was not going to let fear overtake my Olympics. I knew that I had worked too hard and dreamt too big to allow that to happen. I shut my mind down and really just trusted my ability. I got 11th in the race, which was such a disappointment at the time because I wanted a medal, but looking back I wouldn't change a thing. I learned something about myself that was bigger than a victory—to believe in myself. It sounds so cheesy, but look at my results ever since: I’ve gotten better and better. Before Vancouver I wasn't even ranked top 50 in the world. This time around, I started the Olympic season ranked fourth.
Sochi would be your third trip to the Olympics. Do you have any new goals for these games?
I want a medal, but it is also important to me to know that I have done everything I possibly can to obtain it. Downhill is a funny sport, and sometimes not always fair through the whole race, so if I do my best, I am happy.
How are you prepping for trials?
We don't have any specific trials. Our team is chosen off a series of World Cup races. I prep for those the same every year, so business as usual.
If chosen for the U.S. Team, what do you look forward to most about going to Sochi?
I want redemption. My crash in Vancouver didn’t really happen for a reason that was my fault. I got dealt a pretty unlucky hand, and I said immediately after racing in Vancouver that I wanted another fair chance.