Road to Sochi | Q-and-A with 2014 Olympian Maddie Bowman
For the Tribune
Qualifying for the Olympics still didn’t feel completely real to Maddie Bowman a week after securing her spot.
On some level, Bowman knew she was a favorite to make the team. She knew any podium finish in Breckenridge, Colo., Jan. 12 would seal the deal, but when Bowman dropped into the halfpipe she wasn’t thinking about the Olympics. She was simply thinking about the skiing because in Bowman’s mind she’s still the same dorky kid who grew up smashing down the side of Sierra-at-Tahoe.
“I honestly don’t think it will set in until we’re walking through Opening Ceremonies, which I can’t even imagine,” Bowman said.
But anyone who has watched the 20-year-old from South Lake Tahoe ski in the past three years can imagine her walking in those ceremonies, and there was certainly no hint of dork in that qualifying run. There was just a powerhouse skier blasting through a snow-laden pipe and some beasty conditions on her way to qualifying for the first ever Olympic ski halfpipe team.
And once the powder settled, the Tribune checked in with Bowman for a Q-an-A about her thoughts on taking a trip to Sochi, Russia.
Q: First off, big congratulations on making the Olympic team. Now that you’ve had a couple days for this all to sink in, how does it feel to know that you will be representing your country on the biggest sporting stage out there?
A: It’s honestly pretty surreal still, but it’s definitely really exciting. I’m just trying to focus on my skiing so I can represent our sport as best I can for our first time on that stage.
Q: Competing in the Olympics is something that many kids dream about. I’m guessing you were among them. What goes through your mind when you think about how far you’ve come?
A: I have come really far, but all I can think is that it hasn’t really changed me at all. I’m still that kid who went skiing at Sierra for her whole life.
Q: Looking back, were there any key moments or people set your course toward Olympic skiing?
A: Part of it was definitely the kids I grew up skiing with, and how much they made me fall in love with the sport and really enjoy it.
Q: Have you talked to any of those kids since you made the Olympics?
A: Well, I mean, they all still view me as a big dork, but it’s pretty cool they’ve been saying how happy they are for me. I think they’re happy that I’m out there representing where we are from, and I feel super honored to do that.
Q: Take me back to your qualifying weekend. As you prepared that morning, how did the Olympic factor change your competition mindset or morning rituals?
A: I just tried to keep it the same. The fact that I could be qualifying for the Olympics at that competition didn’t actually cross my mind that day. I had thought about it days before, but honestly, that day was just about the skiing and trying to make it down because it was definitely a snowy, snowy course.
Q: I heard the conditions were pretty brutal. Did that change your run at all?
A: Everyone had to go with their backup run, something they didn’t want to go with, but it was the only thing we could do with those conditions. I’ve never seen it snow that much in Colorado. We were the only final to actually happen that weekend.
Q: So what did you do right after you found out you made the team?
A: I called my mom. She really wanted to know if I was going. It was weird because it just felt kind of like another competition day.
Q: This being the first time slopestyle and halfpipe have ever been in the Olympics, how does it feel to know that you are the first U.S. woman freeskier to ever qualify for the Olympics?
A: Wow, I didn’t even realize that was a thing. It’s just such a big stage for our sport, and to be a part of that is going to be cool.
Q: Does the debut factor change the experience or expectations for you?
A: I think it makes it more exciting for us. We get to be the first people to put into someone’s mind what it is we do and why we do it. To be the first and introduce it to so many people will be really cool because now I know that it’s going to be introduced the way I see it and that’s pretty exciting. It’s a big responsibility because like every sport I think ours wants to be viewed a certain way.
Q: Did you ever think you would see the day where women’s halfpipe skiing would be in the Olympics?
A: Growing up, obviously not because it was never supposed to be in the Olympics. So I never thought it would happen, but here we are about to take that on.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about the whole experience?
A: … What they’ve told us is that no Olympics are the same. You’ll never have the same experience at any of the Olympics. So, to completely experience what is happening in Russia is going to be the best part.
Q: Is there anything that you want to do or see while you’re in Russia?
A: I definitely want to see some hockey games. I think that’s what I’m most excited about. To see all the winter sports that we never see.
Q: I imagine that you used to watch the Olympics when you were a kid, do you have a favorite Olympic memory?
A: One of the moments was definitely when we watched Travis Cabral, one of the big mogul skiers from Tahoe, at a big viewing party.
Q: So I don’t know if you’ve even thought about this yet, but what do you think would make this Olympic trip successful in your book?
A: I think what would make this event successful would be to just lay down a run and let the judges do with it what they will. But just to land a run would probably be the coolest thing in the world.