Photography by Venturi + Karpa Image by: Photography by Venturi + Karpa
Smashing your lip open on a ski jump, taking yourself for stitches, getting frostbite from icing your face and returning to take part in a competition that same day will do that. “That was the first time they let women compete in the Big Air event in Whistler and there was no way I wasn't going,” laughs the Canadian freestyle skier,
Winter X Games champion and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics medal hopeful.
You'd think a girl would have to be tough as nails in order to survive in the testosterone-soaked sport of freestyle skiing, but the girl who meets me at her Squamish, B.C., home doesn't look like any of the stereotypes associated with women in extreme sports.
Arriving at the door in red fluffy slippers, floral leggings, a sweater and no makeup – just a big grin – Roz G, as she is known in the ski world, exudes femininity. And yet the trace of a black eye (she got it while surfing with her younger brother, Luke, in Tofino, B.C.) shows that this girl is one tough cookie.
Music fills the 23-year-old's house, and there is a distinct smell of home-cooked food. “It's Buena Vista Social Club,” Roz says of the music emanating from her speakers. Having played piano as a child, and having been trained in classical and jazz flute, she has an appreciation for all music genres.
Roz also has a passion for cooking, and like everything else in her life, she wants to be the best at it. “My mom is a very aggressive foodie, and when I cook it is a reasonably big production,” she says. Her favourites include Asian fusion dishes and quinoa salads.
Her cheering squad
Her home is a shrine to family. More than 40 family photos have been hung proudly on one wall. Her eyes light up as she speaks about her mom and dad, who live in Calgary, and her brother, who lives in Squamish and studies, like she does, at Quest University Canada. Her family ignited her passion for sports and encouraged her to follow her dream.
“My dad always joked that he had children so he could make his own friends. It was important for us to do the sports that he likes to do, like skiing, rock climbing and biking. My mom learned to ski when I did, when she was close to 40. It was an amazing accomplishment for her,” she says, her eyes shining.
Roz started skiing at the age of three. When she was eight, her family moved to Quito, Ecuador, before returning to Calgary when she was 12. “I relearned to ski at 13, which was particularly awkward, as everything is awkward at that age.”
Losing fellow skier, Sarah Burke
It's impossible to discuss skiing without mentioning her friend Sarah Burke, the freestyle skier who died in 2012 after crashing at the bottom of the superpipe during training in Utah. It had a profound impact on Roz. “A lot of media asked if I was more scared of the sport after what happened, but I was less scared. I realized it's what I want to do with my life and what Sarah had wanted to do – to be top of the game in halfpipe skiing. Any action sport is about pushing through fear.”
As focused as she is on becoming the best at what she does, Roz understands that relaxation is essential. For a while, she was a self-confessed “Cuber,” but her much publicized passion for the Rubik's Cube has waned; she now spends more of her downtime watching TV. She's a serious fan of HBO dramas like “The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Wire.” “I watch a good amount of TV on the road, as training is emotionally draining. TV is the perfect way to switch off.” Her one guilty pleasure? “America's Next Top Model.”
When she's not training or watching TV, you can find Roz in her favourite coffee shop, Bean Around the World in Brackendale, or with her head in a book. She has finished her sixth year of part-time studies at Quest and is currently taking an online course in anatomy and physiology via Athabasca University.
The Olympic spotlight: Both glamorous and humbling
But downtime doesn't last long. With the spotlight on her as she prepares to take part in the new sport of women's ski halfpipe at Sochi 2014, she admits the life of a freestyle skier is far from glamorous. As a national team athlete, Roz is part of a random drug-testing pool. “It's an inglorious part of being an athlete: to be having the best moment of your life – winning a medal – and 10 minutes later you're nipples-to-knees naked, peeing in front of a stranger,” she says, cringing.
When she hits the halfpipe in Sochi, however, you'll see the glamorous Roz return in her trademark CoverGirl red lipstick – LipPerfection in Hot. “It's me showing that I can be a badass and feminine at the same time. Strength and femininity aren't exclusive,” she says. “In sports, you have to have a certain emotional strength to be there. That's something we all struggle with at times.”
Meet more of this year's Team Canada athletes.
|This story was originally titled "Slope Star" in the December 2013 issue.|
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