South Shore native Maddie Bowman watched as her friends charged into the halfpipe one at a time during the Winter Olympics this year.
It was the professional skier’s first time competing in the Olympics — the first time anyone had competed for an Olympic gold medal in women’s freeski halfpipe, actually — and Bowman, 20, felt sick to her stomach.
“It was exciting,” she said Thursday, “but it was overwhelming. Before finals I felt like I was going to barf, but I was stoked I was winning runs.”
Bowman had made it to the finals and was about to begin her first of two runs. She took off down the mountain and entered the halfpipe, but had to improvise part of the way through when her run didn’t go as planned.
She looked at her score: 85.80.
On her second run, Bowman said she felt more comfortable. She hit the halfpipe and pulled off a run that included two 900 spins and a backwards 700.
Her score was 89.00, enough to earn her Olympic gold.
“It was the coolest feeling in my whole life,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt that before.”
Meyer’s resident Sue Perpall, Bowman’s mother, stood with other families at the sideline as she watched her daughter win.
“We shared tears and high fives,” Perpall said Thursday, “and we just kind of all looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, did that really happen?’”
Bowman arrived in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 6, but the beginning of the trip was mostly spent watching other athletes compete. Finals for her event didn’t take place until Feb. 20.
She said it was exciting to watch South Shore local Jamie Anderson compete on a global stage and win gold in snowboarding slopestyle, and see another local, Hannah Teter, place fourth in snowboarding halfpipe. Teter and Anderson are older than Bowman, and she looked up to them early in her skiing career.
“It definitely put more pressure on me,” she said. “I was like, they did great, now I have to do great.”
After taking the top spot in her own event, Bowman became the subject of several media interviews. She had dinner with her family the night she won, and walked in the closing ceremony of the Games three days later.
It was a nice end to an unforgettable trip, Bowman said
“Everyone was in a light mood,” she said, recalling how athletes from the various countries began swapping hats with each other.
Bowman, who has been skiing at the South Shore since she was two years old, returned home for the first time since Christmas on Thursday. Here, the athlete will be recognized Saturday for her participation in the winter Games, along with local Olympians Anderson and Teter.
The celebration will take place at Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort, the place where Bowman learned how to ski and love the sport.
“There are so many amazing people in Tahoe…” she said. “It should be quite the festivity.”
Her mother agreed, adding, “We’re excited to have her come home.”