Youth athlete is ready to compete in Norway | VailDaily.com

Youth athlete is ready to compete in Norway

Paula Cooper
Special to the Daily

Paula Cooper

OSLO, Norway — Local student Paula Cooper is representing the U.S. at the Youth Olympic Games in Norway, the only female from the U.S. to compete in the ski halfpipe competition on Sunday. She attends Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy and skis for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. She is writing dispatches from Norway for the Vail Daily.

Tuesday

Tomorrow, I depart for Norway to compete in the Youth Olympics games, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent the United States. I am going into this experience with focus and an open mind. I want to ski to the best of my ability and land my most technical run, yet make connections with winter sports athletes from all around the world and take everything the village has to offer. A lot crosses my mind as I sit in the small airport of Eagle County. I enter a mindset of positivity and excitement. Three years ago, I would never have imagined I would be heading where I am today — I had just made the decision to no longer compete in alpine ski racing and switch disciplines to halfpipe skiing. My journey began there, and I set goals in a new side of skiing. After three years of year-round training off and on snow, I am beyond thankful where freeskiing has taken me. I am looking forward to leaving the trip with memories that will last a lifetime.

Thursday

After a long day of traveling, we arrive to the hotel in Oslo early in the morning. Our groggy team makes an effort to stay awake and prepare for night training at 6 p.m. Chloe (Kim), Hailey (Langland) and I drink coffee and walk the village exploring our home for the next few days. As the first practice approaches, we head to the mountain. I'm lucky enough to ski several halfpipes across the U.S. and world every year; I did not expect to drop into my favorite one of all time when I got to the top and saw the steepness of the hill. I stood for a moment to take in the scenery. All I can think of is how fortunate I am to be here, and how the next two weeks will change my life. After skiing my first lap through, I can't wipe my smile off my face. My coach for the trip, D.J. Montigny, tells me to spend this training getting to know the shape of the pipe. I take what feels like a lap a minute and before I know it practice ends. The energy is amazing; my US teammates are just as excited as I am. Ready to finally rest after almost two days awake, I go to bed looking forward to the next day.