At the Olympics, I had the enormous pleasure of getting to know fellow Minnesotan Rosie Frankowski. Rosie and I must have raced against each other countless times—at Minnesota State Meets, Junior National Qualifiers, NCAA Championships, and for the last four years of our lives as professional ski racers. Our lives diverged geographically after high school as I ventured East and Rosie went to Michigan…and then I stayed East as Rosie headed to Alaska.
An early Junior National Qualifier Podium with Rosie!
If you haven’t had the good fortune to spend some one-on-one time with Rosie, find her at an exotic Air BNB in Mexico after the season ends and get it done. Among being one of the hardest workers, she has incredible perspective and a litany of shockingly insightful one-liners.
As we walked to breakfast one morning discussing the opening ceremonies and what it meant to be an Olympian, Rosie remarked: “The craziest thing about being an Olympian is everybody thinks you’re cool without even knowing you.” She then went on to explain how she had reached out to one of her favorite foodie Instagram stars (Molly Yeh), and despite having commented on her posts several (hundred) times to no avail, Molly responded right back once she found out Rosie was at the Olympics.
the quintessential Olympic photo. It is so cool!
I was instantly struck by two competing notions. One: That is awesome. Even Instagram gave me the elusive blue check next to my name after the opening ceremonies (basically I’m at Taylor Swift level). Two: That is the worst.
It is the worst, because officially being an Olympian is the least Olympic part of being an Olympian. Due to the every-four-years hype that surrounds the World’s most organized sporting event, the country and the world starts paying attention to niche sports only at those times. As a result, the world seems to think that people who have qualified for the Olympics have done something so different from everyone else who tried to qualify, that they deserve a blue check next to their Instagram name.
At the end of last season, I wasn’t sure I was going to continue ski racing. I had a very teary cooldown with Sophie after a race at Spring Series, where between sobs I told her I wasn’t sure I could do it anymore. “It” being the mental, physical, and emotional toil that goes into every minute of training and racing. After a month-long break from any kind of organized training, I decided that I owed it to myself to see if I could make the “big” team.
But, I also promised myself that I wanted my lead up to the last chapter to look the same regardless of whether that chapter happened at the Olympics, or at home in Minnesota. I wanted all the lead up chapters to be filled with workouts, races, rest days and relationships that I could be proud of. I worked hard to be the best version of myself every day. I worked every day on building a character (and fitness) base that would get me happily to the end of my book. I sweat and I cried, I laughed and I loved. I went into the race season in the best physical, and more importantly mental, shape I’d ever been in. I knew that I had done everything possible in part one of my book, so I had to be content with whatever happened in part two.
Part two wasn’t filled with perfect races and rainbow days. Sure, there were some of those. But there were also harrowing moments of self-doubt and pity. But when it mattered most for making the “big” team, I put all the pieces of myself together to throw my best punch. And for those seven minutes of important racing, it all clicked. I was healthy, my skis were perfect, and my body felt good. I strung together two of my best qualifiers ever, and one month later was on a plane to PyeongChang.
I know that there are many athletes out there—in cross country skiing and all other winter Olympic sports—whose Part ones and Part twos looked nearly identical to mine. But as is sport, not everyone’s perfect days can happen on the same day. It is the most beautiful but most haunting aspect of competition. The hardest and most honorable part of sport is cheering for a competitor when their perfect day comes at the expense of yours. I know, because I’ve been on both sides of that day.
Despite the nearly identical lead ups of hundreds of athletes, many don’t have the blue check next to their Instagram handle.
And that’s a damn shame. Because it is in the deep depths of the toil that Olympians—in everything but precise name—are made. Don’t get me wrong, the Olympic experience is an incredible one, and one I won’t soon forget. I feel incredibly humbled and honored to have represented the country and the communities that have guided me to this chapter. The Olympic Creed has never rung truer to me: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
I am now happily back home, and after a very restful four days with Thomas (the bearer of my beautiful rose bouquet upon arrival back in Minnesota) and my family (well, semi restful. Bulldog Pudge had emergency surgery after ingesting two pairs of lulu lemon underwear- he has expensive taste), I am ready to continue the fight on the Birkie Trails. This will be my first 50K, and I’m excited and nervous but mostly excited. See everyone out there!