This article was published on May 7th, 2012
For two-time Olympic athlete, world champion and member of the Canadian World Cup mogul team, Canadian freestyle skier Kristi Richards is a person with a passion, dream and dedication to her discipline.
Kristi first set her feet onto a pair of skis when she was just three years old and from that moment onwards she has been in love with the sport.
“I want to go to the Olympics,” said Kristi, reflecting back on her dreams as a child. “I want to win a gold medal for Canada.”
After years of training, the Summerland, BC native knew she had to take her skiing career to the next level. In 2005 her community got behind her and helped raise the funds she needed to go to her first Olympics in Torino.
In the lead up to the Torino Olympics, Kristi suffered two major injuries.
“I knew I had to go to the Olympics,” Kristi said. “I didn’t matter if I won, lost, or crashed. If you’re going for greatness, that path will be worth it.”
Kristi recovered and continued to train for her first-ever Olympic competition. She knew she had to reach her childhood dream.
“I love to see what’s physically possible,” Kristi said as she recalled her training and what motivated her on her journey. “It came down to my values. I love to learn. I was learning so much about myself. It was great.”
Every race and competition for an athlete is exciting and emotional, and for Kristi, the Torino Olympics were no different.
“I was so nervous the day before the event, I couldn’t even ski three moguls,” Kristi said. “I was the first women to go on the first day of the competition. I knew this was my moment. I can open the games!”
As Kristi stood in the ready position at the gate at the top of the course she was nervous.
“I couldn’t train any more. This is it,” Kristi described the moment in vivid detail. “I saw my family in the crowd and I knew I could do no wrong.”
Kristi ended up reaching her goal of placing in the top 10 by placing 7th overall.
In 2007, Kristi committed to participating in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. There were challenges for her there too. The Canadian womens freestyle mogul team was starting with all brand new members.
Kirsti was going in on a strong note. She had just won the gold medal at the 2007 World Cup and knew there was a lot of hard work in the years ahead.
“I was focused on the goal ahead,” Kristi said as she recalled all the physical and mental training she had to do along the way. “It’s not simple to get your mind to be quiet and to focus.”
Kristi decided to make some personal sacrifices so she could stay focused. She changed her cell phone number, paid attention to nutrition, and put her social calendar on hold in the year leading up to the Olympics. This was the dedication she has as an Olympic caliber athlete.
“I said not to media appearance,” Kristi said as she described her focused level of commitment to her training. “In the long run it’s not going to make me a better skier.”
Kristi decided that in order to make her Vancouver 2010 Olympic moment special she would attempt a jump no women in the Olympics had ever done before.
“I was confident because I didn’t miss a beat,” Kristi said. “I chose it because I was scared of jumping. If I kept doing all my regular jumps, then I’m just going to get by. Why not go to my full potential? I learned how to trust myself. My coaches. Others.”
At the end of her training Kristi learned something very valuable. To believe.
“I learned how to believe. For greatness. For myself. I wanted to see the sport grow and evolve. This is why Kristi pushed herself so hard.
The day before her big race the weather was not cooperative.
“I went through six pairs of gloves and goggles and I put on a trench coat after every run,” Kristi said. She knew she has a competitive edge because she had trained in these conditions before and as a seasoned pro, she was not going to be thrown off guard. “I knew I was going to rise above it or get over it.”
On the day of the race, Kristi was again full of confidence.
“I stood up there so proud of myself,” Kristi recalled as she stood once again at the gates at the top of the Olympic race course, this time in Vancouver. “I can remember the humidity in the air.”
As Kristi descended down the hill she was full of power and strength.
“In that spit second I was going for gold, not bronze.”
It started off so well, and then disaster struck.
“I skied that run so fast that I missed a few pole plants and crashed in the middle of the run. I knew when I crashed that gold was gone.”
Although the hearts of many Canadians sunk, Kristi wasn’t going to let it get her down. She trained hard for this moment and she wanted to finish what she originally set-out to do.
“Most people just get up and ski off the course, but I wanted to do this jump. I took in the engery from below. I remember taking four deep breathes. I counted them. I collected my thoughts and continued down the course. I did the best back fold of my life!”
Although Kristi did not medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics games she can be very proud of her achievements and acomplishments.
“I laid everything out on the table,” Kristi said, as she described how she overcame her fears and challenges and what she was able to do as an athlete. “I am proud of that.”
After taking some time off, Kristi has decided to try again to compete in another Olympic competition.
Kristi, I wish you good luck on your journey. You’re an inspiration.