The Winter Olympics can prove to be one of the most unpredictable sporting events.
There are multiple factors — the snow could be too soft, too icy, or too artificial. The skies can open up and bring down snow, sleet, rain, and hail. Athletes can land their tricks wrong or their equipment can malfunction. With all these implications, sometimes it might even seem impossible that these athletes can consistently do well.
But sometimes, all you need is one good run where everything works out.
For Julia Marino, the first American to get a medal at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, her second run in the women’s snowboarding Slopestyle final set her over the top to secure the silver medal.
Julia Marino's Instagram
“I put together a run that I thought was pretty solid, but I failed the first one,” Marino said. “The second run, I was feeling all those jitters and everything, but I had my music in and I was trying to go through it one feature at a time until I got to the bottom of the course. [Just] playing the whole run through in my head.”
Once it was Marino’s turn for her second run, she stared down the course before pushing off. Marino had a set list of tricks to run through perfectly to secure a medal — a cab double underflip and a frontside double 1080 made up some of the more challenging features on the run. And Marino landed them flawlessly.
Fans at home watching could see the instant gratification of perfecting the run. Once Marino got to the end, the snowboarder quickly unbound her boots from the board, picked it up, and put her hands on her head. A true moment of “did I really just do that?”
“You want to do your best and be on the podium,” Marino said with a smile.
The young snowboarder's second run earned her an impressive score of 87.68, which brought her into first place until ultimate champion Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand finished her run with a score of 92.88. It took a lot of work to get to that podium for Marino, who didn’t start snowboarding until she was in her early teens.
“I started skiing first,” Marino recalls. “I had tried snowboarding a few times, but I actually didn’t really like it at first.”
Marino and her family would regularly take vacations up to the mountains in Vermont. On one of those trips, the terrain was particularly rough and she snapped one of her skis and was forced to use her snowboard for the rest of the time.
“After that, I pretty much never went back to skiing,” Marino said.
Once converted to a full-time snowboarder, Marino joined a weekend team where she was able to compete at a more casual level. Marino and her family realized snowboarding could become a career a few years later when she made the professional team for USA Snowboarding.
From there, it was all snowboarding all the time. Marino was flying around the country and around the world for competitions such as the X Games, and her repertoire and experience were on her side heading to Beijing.
Julia Marino's Instagram
“Something that I always find cool about snowboarding is that it takes you to some pretty cool places,” Marino said. “I went to Andorra once and the weather and the conditions were just beautiful.”
Once it came to the 2022 Winter Olympics, there were a few things that were different than usual. There wasn’t much space to socialize with people from other countries due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the snow on the mountains was artificial.
“The whole course was pretty much solid ice,” Marino said. “You just have to keep that in mind more when you’re on the course and try not to slip out or fall too hard.”
Those conditions played into multiple runs, including Marino’s first. The second one though, as Marino said, she just needed to get those jitters out.
Now, after winning a silver medal, Marino is ready for the next step in her career, and is looking forward to the next Olympics in Milan in 2026.
“It’ll be really cool,” Marino said. “My family is from there and one of my sponsors (Prada) is based out of there. But right now, I’m just enjoying riding with my friends. I want to dip my toes into everything within the next four years and see where I’m at.”
Photo credits: Courtesy of Julia Marino’s Instagram