WESTPORT, Conn -- For athletes aspiring to compete in the Winter Olympics, the year leading into the quadrennial spectacle can make the difference between competing against the world’s elite or watching their peers on television.
- Who : Julia Marino, 19, Westport
- What : Member of the U.S. Snowboarding Pro Team
- Did you know? Marino finished second last weekend at the FIS Snowboard World Cup Big Air event in PyeongChang, South Korea, which will be the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics
Westport snowboarder Julia Marino realizes the ramifications, and she’s off to a terrific start. A member of the U.S. Snowboarding Pro Team, she moved closer to cementing her status as an Olympic contender with a second-place finish last weekend in South Korea at the first Olympic test event of the season.
Competing in an FIS Snowboard World Cup Big Air event at Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre in PyeongChang, which will host the 2018 Winter Olympics, the 19-year-old took second behind Austria’s Anna Gasser. “It was an awesome experience,’’ Marino said about her second-place finish in South Korea. “The jump was really good; everything about the contest was really cool. I was glad to have a good start to the season.”
Marino picked up the silver despite an injury sustained three weeks beforehand in Austria where she flew off a rail during a training run and smacked her back on an ice patch. “I was lucky it wasn’t more serious,’’ Marino said. “I was very sore and couldn’t train for almost three weeks.”
She was cleared to train once she arrived at PyeongChang, but due to a technical malfunction involving the ramp’s elevator, she and several other competitors were not able to do their training runs. As a result, the women’s qualification rounds were pushed back one day and the semifinal was eliminated from the competition. The top six women out of 32 competitors in the qualification round advanced directly to the final.
Marino finished fifth in the qualification round. In the final, she rose three spots with a “Cab 900 Double Cork” -- a 180-degree spin combined with a double backflip -- in her medal-winning jump. “I knew I needed to do well in this competition,’’ Marino said. “I was feeling really good during practice. I was pretty motivated and felt like I could push through it. I had been doing a lot of icing and physical therapy on my back over the past three weeks. I was ready.” Click here to watch Marino's run in the finals.
Working with Quebec-based coach Max Henault, Marino said she’s trying to achieve more consistency during a vital year. “Over the summer, I spent a lot of time training in Mt. Hood (Oregon), Australia, Canada and Japan, so I am feeling strong and consistent,’’ she said. “I want to make sure that I’m dialed in and locked in. I feel pretty good about my tricks.”
Marino jumped front and center onto the international stage with a victory at an FIS Snowboarding World Cup Big Air event in February at Fenway Park in Boston. It got the attention of a lot of media and other snowboarders. “To stomp my tricks at such a unique snowboarding event was a huge deal for me,’’ Marino said. “It was important from an experience standpoint, but it also showed that I can step up to the plate in big contests.”
Marino was initially an alternate for Big Air Fenway, but got her chance when a fellow athlete was injured during practice. With 13,000 in attendance, along with her parents and relatives, the event made the record books as the first sports competition won by a female athlete at Fenway.
Marino reached the podium three times in the span of a month last winter. She competes in a second discipline known as Slopestyle, and in March won the bronze medal at the World Snowboard Tour’s Corona World Championships of Snowboarding, which are held every four years. The event took place in Yabuli, China, where the 2022 Olympics will be held.
She hopes to compete in about 12 events this year. She is an alternate to compete at a Dew Tour Slopestyle event taking place in early December at Breckenridge, Colo., where Marino has spent a significant amount of training time, followed by U.S. Grand Prix Big Air and Slopestyle events taking place at Copper Mountain, Colo. and Mammoth Lakes, CA. The goal, she said, is to continue to improve, strive for podiums and gain attention from judges. “It’s the time to go all-in and work as hard as I can,’’ Marino said. She plans to compete in Canada and Switzerland after the holidays, as well as at the Burton U.S. Open in January. She is hoping to receive an invitation to the X-Games in Aspen this year.
Marino has been training at an elite level for three years, but she retains the passion she discovered for the sport during family weekend trips to Vermont as a young girl. “I love it even more now,’’ she said. “The harder I work, the more the results show. It drives me. The passion grows with every contest and every training day.”
Marino is now ranked No. 3 in the world in Big Air and 14th in Slopestyle on the World Snowboard Tour. At this time last year, she was ranked 53rd in Big Air and 22nd in Slopestyle. Big Air will be an Olympic event for the first time in 2018, whereas Slopestyle made its debut at the 2014 Olympics. If Marino attains her goals, she will be an Olympian in both disciplines.
“Competing at this level has lived up to my expectations and then some,’’ Marino said. “There are certain things I don’t enjoy, such as long flights and jet lag, but they’re part of the experience. It makes it more memorable; it’s part of the journey. I can’t complain. It’s such an awesome opportunity. It’s difficult being away from my family, but I’ve been traveling on my own since I was 16, so I’m used to it. Nothing worth achieving comes easy.”
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