The Olympic Qualifiers

Long post, but there’s a lot to cover!

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This season has been hectic, to say the least. All of the athletes had five Olympic qualification events to do within a five-week period. Going into this season, I’d heard a lot about what to expect, but I really had no idea. I had heard that this past December and January were going to be the most stressful two months of my life, but I’d never had the experience myself.

In all honesty, it was exactly as people said it was going to be. I felt like one minute, everything in my life was normal and then- within the blink of an eye, I was competing in “the biggest event of my life” every couple of days. (*In case you didn’t know, qualifying for the Olympics for the U.S.  is a process where they look at your top 2 results in a series of five qualification events.) Fortunately, I felt really good with my riding in the beginning of the season. We had a camp in Breckenridge before the Dew Tour and I was able to get all of my old tricks back and then some. I was confident that the season was going to go smoothly.

My opinion changed when Dew Tour didn’t go my way. I was extremely nervous going into the Copper World Cup. I kept thinking, “What if I mess up again and put myself in a position where I need to get 2 great results at the next 3 events?”. I could only take so much of freaking myself out though, so whenever I got into a negative place, I started repeating “I always land my runs in Copper” over and over in my head. I squeaked into finals at the event after a basic but clean run in some challenging qualifying conditions. In finals, I ended up just off of the podium in 4th place and was the top American girl for the event. 

Here’s a photo of my teammates and I after practicing at Copper:

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That result took a massive amount weight off of my shoulders over the holidays and going into January. I knew that I pretty much had 3 events to get one top-3 American finish. Our next qualifier was originally supposed to be in Northstar, California but it got moved back to Breckenridge due to a lack of snow in Tahoe. Like I said, I needed to be focused going into every event, but I was much more relaxed than I was in Copper. Both of my qualifying runs had scores that would have put me into the final. I qualified in 6th place as the 2nd American with my 2nd run score. Just after our event was over, a massive storm rolled into town. The next few days brought over a foot and a half of snow and 60+ mph winds on the mountain. We couldn’t compete in a final. The people who did well in the qualifier, myself included, wanted the qualification results from the event to be used as the final standings. Unfortunately, that was against the rules and the contest was treated as if it never happened.

At this point, I broke a little bit. I knew that the cancellation of that event meant that we’d have 3 more qualifiers to compete in the next week at Mammoth. I was exhausted from all of the riding and stress, and I knew that the worst was yet to come. We flew to Mammoth on a Sunday, I put myself together on Monday and got into a positive frame of mind, practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday, and competed in back to back events on Thursday. In the first event, I put down a decent run and got 3rd place. I was really happy with my result and knew that I’d put myself in a great position. However, I also knew that I wasn’t   officially “locked in”. I went back up for the second event. On my second run, I went deep on the last jump on a back 7, over-rotated a bit, caught my toe edge and hooked into the sponsor-banner fence on the side of the course. I’m pretty sure almost everyone has seen the crash at this point, but if you haven’t then here’s the link to a video of it (if you’re friends with me on Facebook) and a picture of my helmet afterward.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=659753214084811&set=vb.100001504147412&type=3&theater

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I was pretty sore the next day but went up to practice and tried to change up my run a little bit. I wanted to do a trick I’d never done in an event before for the last qualifier. My jump line was switch back 5, front 3, back 7. I landed on the first run but it was rough around the edges. I really didn’t have any fight left in me; I fell on my second run. When I got to the bottom and the event was over, I knew that I’d qualified for the Olympics with my 1st place American result in Copper and my 3rd place finish from the first event in Mammoth. I didn’t really believe it at first, and also had mixed emotions considering the event that day wasn’t my finest moment. I got over that pretty quickly once I realized that I’d achieved the big-picture goal. I just kept asking my parents “Are you sure?… “Are you absolutely positive?” It didn’t really sink in until the next day when I was announced to the team with the other athletes that qualified in Slopestyle and Halfpipe. I got the jacket that I’ll be wearing for my event in Sochi and became a member of Team USA.

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Switch Back 5 – Final Olympic Qualifier – Mammoth, CA

Photo: Diana Sciandra

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TEAM USA

I’m still kind of in shock. Even though I leave for the Olympics in less than a week, the whole situation still seems sort of surreal. I guess I’m so used to having it just be a dream of mine that I have a hard time thinking of it as my new reality. I am so excited and honored to represent the United States of America in Sochi at the first ever slopestyle event. HUGE thanks to my sponsors, family, friends, coaches, and supporters. You’ve all helped make my dream come true and I hope that I can do our country proud in Russia!

Until Next Time,

-Ty Walker

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3 comments

  1. Ty to put in words your simply the best. You have made the whole family so proud and there nothing you can’t do when you set your mind to it. Love ya uncle Brian!!!!!!

  2. We are so proud of you!!! You are an amazing, talented, and awesome person & snowboarder! I always knew there was greatness in you… I am just so glad that the world gets to see it too. Good luck in Sochi! We will be watching 🏂

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