Meghan Tierney’s Olympic dreams hang in balance
Positive COVID test keeps Eagle resident out of final qualifying event
On Jan. 3, Eagle’s snowboard cross Olympian Meghan Tierney announced on Instagram that she had contracted COVID-19, preventing her from attending the final Olympic tryout qualifier in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Jan. 8-9.
“Super bummed to be writing this but unfortunately I tested positive for COVID so I won’t be able to attend the next race in Russia,” Tierney wrote.
“I was looking forward to racing out there but sometimes things are out of your control. I’m feeling well but taking all precautions and looking forward to getting back on snow. Good luck to everyone competing.”
Going into the Krasnoyarsk weekend, only SSCV alumna Faye Gulini had secured a ticket to Beijing, earning her fourth Olympic spot courtesy of a top-six FIS ranking as of Dec. 22. The remaining two slots (with a possible third potentially being awarded) would go to any athlete with a podium finish in Russia. Given the stakes, receiving a positive PCR test just days before flying out for the qualifier was a deflating moment for the Eagle resident.
“Yeah, it was definitely a hard situation,” Tierney said.
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Feeling under the weather around New Years, she figured her new puppy was the reason for the sniffles. Just to be on the safe side, Tierney took two at-home antigen tests, both of which came back negative.
“I was like, ‘ok, there’s no way I have it,’” she remembered. Needing a negative PCR test to enter Russia, she took that test the next day. It came back positive. “I was like, ‘oh gosh, what the heck,’” Tierney said about the rough news.
As Tierney quarantined in North Carolina with her boyfriend James, five-time World Champion Lindsey Jacobellis podiumed on consecutive days at the World Cup event, locking herself in for a fifth Olympics in the process. No other American has had a top-three finish at any of the other qualifiers, meaning the final nomination(s) will be determined using discretionary procedures, with an announcement coming on or before Jan. 21.
According to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Olympic Criteria, the discretionary selection will be “an athlete(s) who has 1) clearly demonstrated the ability to produce a medal winning result or 2) has demonstrated future medal potential by achieving one of the following criteria listed (in no specific order of priority): one top-8 result within the last 24 months, at a FIS World Cup, World Championships, X-Games, Dew Tour or U.S. Open, or a top-20 World Ranking within the last 24 months on the FIS Snowboard cross points list.”
Tierney is the fourth-highest American in FIS points rankings for snowboardcross. Meanwhile, Stacy Gaskill, the third American, is ranked 17th. At the last World Cup she contested in Cervinia, Italy, Dec. 18, Tierney finished sixth, ahead of Gaskill in 13th. It is possible, however, that both of these athletes could wind up in Beijing.
As of Jan. 11, the official FIS snowboard cross quota list indicates that the U.S. has four male and four female slots available for the event, but the maximum size of the U.S. snowboard contingent — to be spread across all disciplines — is 26 total athletes. Even though there is no guarantee all four slots will be used in Tierney’s event, the SSCV alumna appears to be decently positioned to secure a second Olympic birth, despite the health hiccup, which she thinks might have some benefits if she does end up in China. ”I have the antibodies going into it,” she said, encouraged knowing the chances of spending her Olympics stuck in a Beijing hospital room are greatly diminished. “So, that definitely helps me, settling my mind a bit.”
Tierney said the pandemic has been a source of stress throughout the season.
“I’m definitely a hypochondriac, so I have been worried about getting it pretty much this whole time,” she said.
“And, once I got it, I was pretty stressed out. It’s just crazy because there is so much talk in the media, and people try to scare you, so I just try to not read into any of that and hope for the best.”
For an athlete who came back from a broken back before qualifying for Pyeongchang in 2018, the whole ordeal has shown the importance of mental resilience, too.
“Everyone’s really paying attention to mental health and I think really taking care of my mental health is a big thing,” she said.
“I know everybody has their own challenges and everything and I know that COVID has definitely put a strain on a lot of things, including this. So I think that trying to stay positive and having a good mental mindset — I think it will just help in the future as well. Just being able to know I can get through things.”
Even if she isn’t representing the stars and stripes in February, the 2026 Games in Cortina, Italy, remain on the horizon for the 24-year old.
“I think that’s definitely been a goal of mine for a while, so I would loved to try and do that,” she said about the next Olympic cycle.
“It kind of depends on my body as well, so, how long I can take it. I know my teammate Lindsey — this is going to be her fifth one coming up — so that’s awesome to really see how you can grow in the sport. So maybe that’s something I can do. I guess my body will let me know.”