Though she already has a shelf full of championship hardware, Canadian free skiing sensation Rosalind Groenewoud (Roz G for short) is looking to add a new type of precious medal to her collection: Olympic gold. And the 24-year-old’s timing couldn’t be better, as Ski Halfpipe is about to make its Winter Games debut—and she’s one of the favorites. We chatted with the red-lipped vixen about her love for the pipe, overcoming injuries and how she plans to triumph in Sochi.
When did you start skiing?
I was young when I first started—three years old. My dad is a passionate skier and wanted to have a ski family. We would spend the day together on the slopes. And then when I was seven, we moved to Ecuador and there was about a year or so when I didn’t ski. When we eventually moved to Canada, I enrolled in recreational ski style school. So I tell people I learned to ski when I was 13.
What sparked your interest in the pipe?
I remember watching the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics mogul skiing competition. I loved how fast and dangerous it looked. When I moved back to Canada I was in this weekend and afterschool program that was freestyle skiing at Olympic Park in Calgary. The hill was only a 10-minute drive from my house. I realized moguls weren’t actually for me. I loved the park and transitioned into the halfpipe.
What was it like to win gold at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championship and at the 2012 Winter X Games? What memory are you most fond of?
I’m the most proud of 2011 in Park City, Utah. I hadn’t competed since the World Cup in 2009 because I had a head injury. I came out of a trick wrong and hit my head pretty hard. I couldn’t see straight for three weeks. It took me two years to regain my confidence. So doing halfpipe in the 2011 World Championships really challenged me.
And how did it go down?
It was a complete blizzard outside, to the point where it looked like tornados were going down the pipe. I knew the IOC would be watching and deciding whether or not to make our sport an Olympic event. It was a big deal for us. I knew I needed to ski well for the future of the sport.
Did that affect your nerves even more?
I was really nervous and hadn’t done a whole training run in the pipe, including the trick I hurt myself doing two years prior. That morning my coach said, ‘You’re gonna go for it—you’re going to do that trick.’ So the first competition run came and I landed it. It was a huge accomplishment in getting over my fears and having that confidence from my coach, that he said I could do it. And I won.
Just another day (kicking everyone’s butt) in the pipe!
Are you excited that the halfpipe is now an official Olympic event?
Definitely! When it was announced, it was no longer a dream. It was now something I could achieve. I felt a responsibility to myself to do it.
You’re a frontrunner for the gold. Is that a lot of pressure to have on your shoulders?
It’s definitely flattering, but a frontrunner can blow it just as often as anyone else. There’s no resting at all. I’m competing against incredible skiers who are going to bring their all. I need to work hard, but I know that I am capable of it.
You’re also in school studying math and physics! Have numbers always been your thing?
I want to balance my education with my career. I’m trying to keep my brain alive. And yes, I have always been a numbers person. But I love skiing for its intuition and creativity and enjoy being in a sport that is judged on that.
Tell us about your fitness regimen when you’re not on the slopes.
I get most of my motivation being outside and being around other athletes that push me. I love being on my mountain bike. You work so hard and can get a workout just going up a hill. Then you have the joy of riding through the woods, which balances a hard activity with a fun activity. I also weightlift, do Pilates and trampoline. I’m always trying things.
Any advice for someone looking to excel as a skier? Someone who isn’t an Olympian quite yet…
The amount that you enjoy skiing is so much about how prepared you are. Even basic things like clothing and base layers. I love C9 base layers. They come in great colors and aren’t made of cotton. If you wear a cotton base layer, you’ll have a miserable time on the slopes. And wearing a helmet and waterproof pants is important as well to help you stay warm and dry. The better prepared you are for the hill, the more time you’ll spend out there. And the more time you spend on the hill, the better…