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Ski Resort Life

U.S. Freestyle Team: Donna Weinbrecht


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SKIING’s interview with the U.S. Freestyle Team’s living legend.

Killington, Vermont

Olympic gold in 1992; five World Cup Championship titles; 46 individual World Cup wins; seven-time U.S. champion.

“My biggest challenge as an athlete is to get out of the way of myself. It’s hard. You want to perform so well that you get too intense and stiff. I think sometimes it’s great to have no expectations and then you end up getting everything.”

Weinbrecht had Lasik surgery last spring to correct her vision and eliminate the problems of competing in contact lenses.

Best thing about Olympic gold:
“You’re affecting people in a positive way. It makes me feel good when you know you’ve really, in an indirect way, touched people’s lives.”

Worst thing about spending 14 years on the U.S. Ski Team:
“I hate packing.”

Ski hero:
“The first was Ingemar Stenmark. We had a lot of similarities. He was a unicycler and I used to ride a unicycle. He was known to be smooth and I was known to be smooth. I don’t know where he is, I haven’t followed him, but I remember that affecting me. But now I would have to say my ski hero is my dad. After suffering a serious back injury, he’s out there and he can still churn it up.”

Sixth grade prescience:
“I wasn’t into freestyle skiing and never really had any coaches. I went night skiing in New Jersey and I wrote a little essay saying it would be cool to go to the Olympics. Or own a ski shop. My mum saved that paper.”

Pre-race routine:
“I have to have my gloves on the inside of my jacket. I also stretch, stamp my feet, try to look out at the mountains, and try to calm myself down by counting my blessings and being thankful up there — a little moment of thanks. It’s kind of like making sure that whatever happens, you’re going to be okay. That’s good because it takes away some pressure.”

How the advancements in mogul-competition courses have changed mogul skiing:
“It’s changed dramatically. Today we’re able to ski faster and get more height in the air. We are the Porsches of mogul skiing rather than the whole free-spirited thing back in the ’70s and early ’80s. It’s an exciting time to be a freestyle mogul skier.”

She kicks serious ass when:
“I see the terrain really early and visualize myself skiing it before I get there. I’m actually feeding off of what I see. I’m very connected with sense like that. I see it and feel like I’ve already been through it. I’m actually visualizing while moving.”

On doing it again:
“Salt Lake City will be 10 years from when I won my first gold medal. I guess there’s just a competitiveness in me that makes me want to try it again. I wouldn’t be here if the Olympics weren’t in the U.S.”

Other sports:
Ice skating, sailing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, running, and yoga.

DIN setting:

In another life:
She’d be Britney Spears.

Being in the zone:
“It not being too much in your head. It’s like being in your belly, feeling very balanced. You’re like, ‘Bring it on! Bring it on! Anything you throw at me, I’m ready.’ It’s a feeling inside your body. There’s not too much chatter in your head. It’s kind of a quiet space.”

“I have lots. ‘Big D’ was the first and then it went to ‘Pumpkin,’ ‘Golden Pumpkin,’ ‘Smashing Pumpkin,’ ‘JC’ for Jersey Cream, ‘Dee Dub,’ ‘Dee.’ I have lots of them. Now the young kids call me ‘Dark Wing.'”

People would be surprised to know:
“I knit a good sweater!”