Outdoors

Breezy's Journey

Racing toward the Olympics

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Western Washington University student Breezy Johnson, 22, won’t be reading Shakespeare this month.

The alpine downhill skier, an honors program student at WWU, was recently selected to the United States Alpine Ski Team to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Johnson heard the news a day before U.S. Ski and Snowboard announced her selection last week, and said it was a dream come true.

“I was always super-serious about ski racing, and for as long as I can remember I wanted to be an Olympian ski racer,” Johnson says. “I remember competing at one race when I was super-young where they gave ribbons to everyone who competed. I threw mine out because I wasn’t interested in something given just for competing. I wanted something I had to earn.”

Johnson’s father was her first instructor when she strapped on skis at the age of 3, and she took a shine to the sport quickly.

“My brother and I were pains in the butt at any resort we were at,” she says. “We were better skiers than our instructors even as kids, so we’d ditch them and rip around the mountain on our own. But what influenced me to stick with the sport is the improvement I witnessed in myself as I skied. I could see myself progress in time and I became addicted to winning. I’m always looking for a challenge, and skiing was the most challenging thing I ever did—which made it the most rewarding.”

The Victor, Idaho resident studies at Western one quarter each academic year, in the spring, and plans on majoring in English. Someday she hopes to attend business and law school simultaneously, so when she’s done skiing she can become involved in the business side of sport.

For now, though, she’s bracing herself for speeds of as many as 85 miles per hour and preparing to ignore the little voice in her head instructing her to slow down.

“It’s so thrilling to see how far you can push the limits,” she says. “Every time you decide not to listen to your instincts and go faster, you feel like you’re defying death itself.”

Injury is par for the course in ski racing and Johnson considers herself lucky to have walked away with just a fractured tibial plateau after a crash last spring in Aspen. It was her first major injury.

“I had to do a lot of physical therapy and alter my program to come back, but it could have been much worse,” she says. “Every ski racer that sticks with the sport long enough gets injured.”

Still, Johnson remains passionate about racing, and she’s grateful to her U.S. Ski Team members for helping her reach the Olympic standard. “I honestly can’t say if I would be where I am in the world ranks without them,” she says. “They know so much and have shared their knowledge and experience with me, even though at times like the Olympics and World Championships we have to compete against each other.”

“They’re like family,” she adds. “We all know we’re good, and the only thing we can do is ski our best. At the end of the day, if we can’t win then having our teammates win is the next best thing.”

The 2018 Winter Olympics take place Feb. 9-25 in the Republic of Korea. Go to http://www.olympic.org for a full schedule of events.

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