Being Ty – Up Close with an Olympic Snowboarder
Photos Courtesy of Red Bull
Fresh from the Games in Sochi, Olympic Snowboarder Ty Walker was already back in full training mode despite her recent injury during the Games. She came in off the hill to speak to SNOW. I asked her to give me 3 words to describe herself. The first word out of her mouth was “Focused”. At 16 years of age, she is one of the youngest athletes to compete in the Games and make her debut in the new event of Snowboard Slopestyle. She is also one of the younger Red Bull athletes. The next word she gave me was “Outgoing”, which was evident after just a few minutes on the phone with her. I was glad to hear her say “Goofy” since she was only 16. When else in your life do you truly have a license to be goofy?
Ty started riding at 7 years old in Killington, VT. She fell in love immediately and rode every chance she got. Rain, snow, wind, hail, ice, nothing could take away from the joy she experienced snowboarding. The following year she decided to join a program. Okemo said that she wasn’t good enough for their program and turned her away. Killington also said she didn’t have the skills but they were willing to let her join and found coaches that could get her up to the level of the other kids. She quickly “got up to speed” and entered her first competition. The day before the comp, she broke her wrist, thus cutting that season short. Undeterred, one season later, at the ripe age of 9, Ty began competing at the USA SA level. She qualified for Nationals where she told me, “I got my butt whooped”. That experience obviously lit a fire under her as one year later at 10 years old, she won Nationals. She felt like the coolest kid out there even though no one knew her name or who she was. Winning was great, but riding the lift and competing with her snowboard idols like “Sean”, “Kelly”, and “Hannah” was even cooler. She watched the Olympics in Torino on TV and upon seeing Sean White wrapped in the American Flag with his Gold Medal, she decided then that she was going to compete in the Olympics too.
At this point she was basically living on her own; she had a coach, but she strongly states that “he didn’t babysit me”! She’s been doing her homework, cooking (she makes a mean Eggs in the Hole I’ve been told), doing laundry, training, and competing on her own for a few years now. I ask her how she handles all this responsibility and the ups and downs of competing. She tells me that “when she was young (I had to hold back a laugh at this 16 year old talking about her youth) she was only happy if she did well and equated good results with who she was”. “I could see that I was getting in the way of myself and that results didn’t define me”. Again, I had to chuckle since at almost 3 times her age I’m still trying to get out of my own way! Now she tells me, “I take each day as it come. I try to be the best I can be on the day and then move on. It all out of your hands anyway. I love competing, but beyond the comps and the results, I love snowboarding”.
We talk briefly about Sochi and the Olympics. She was injured in practice but still went on to compete and finished 14th. She said it was a bummer not to be 100%, but that she had to enjoy the experience of living her Olympic dream.
I pointed out that even though she is just 16, there are a lot of 7 year olds who will see her as a role model and I asked her what she would want these kids to know. “I want them to know that if they can commit, they can achieve anything”. And so this “Focused”, “Outgoing” and “Goofy” girl clicked off the phone to go back to doing what she loved best, snowboarding.