KELSEY PHINNEY'S SKI DREAMS
It is a wonderful gift to chase a dream. Mine is to compete at the highest level of my sport - Nordic skiing.
Competing in an Olympic sport for a National team instead of a sponsored trade team has its benefits and setbacks. The benefits are that when I race on the World Cup circuit, I get to represent not only my teammates and myself, but also my country. Just ten years ago, the U.S. Nordic ski team was a serious underdog. The athletes and coaches worked together to create the most positive and inspiring team atmosphere possible to push the limits of what was possible. I watched in awe on TV as my sporting heroes started to get top tens, podiums, and wins at World Cups and World Championships. All of this work and belief culminated in an Olympic Gold medal for Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins in the team sprint event in Pyeongchang just earlier this year! These heroes, in the last few years, have become my teammates and friends. They have paved a path for all of us up-and-comers to keep pushing the limits of what is possible. I can’t wait to see what we can do over the next few years leading into the 2022 Beijing Olympics!
So what is the setback of being in an Olympic sport? Funding. Even with all of the success and momentum on the team, there is still very little funding available for U.S. Nordic skiers. Many of us work part time jobs and often have to rely on the kindness of family, friends, and even strangers to support this dream. In order to secure funding for International racing, a skier must be ranked top 30 in the World Cup standings at the culmination of each race season. In order to have a shot at that, a skier needs to qualify for those World Cups and then race in as many as they can to score as many points as possible. Based on my skiing last year, I was selected by a discretionary committee to have World Cup start spots for the first month of racing this year. Depending on my performances, I hope to stay on the circuit for the entire year. A season on the World Cup costs around $20,000 for each athlete. With success can come better funding and better sponsorship opportunities that can alleviate that cost or even allow the best skiers to make a living chasing their dreams! I hope to one day be in that boat with hard work, great support, a little luck, and lots of experience. But this first year is the year to get my foot in the door and see what I can do! I can’t do it alone and that is why every little bit of support makes a huge difference in my ability to work towards being the best skier I can be and chase my dream of being a medal contender in the next Olympics
How did this Olympic dream start for me?
In elementary school, I used to wear my mom’s 1984 Olympic gold medal around the house as a necklace - throwing my arms in the air like I had been the one to win it. I didn’t really know the significance of it at the time but I’m sure it stoked a small flame inside of me that has only really started to burn bright in the last few years as I’ve focused more and more on my own athletic goals. My parents are both 1984 Olympic medalists in road cycling. My older brother is now a three-time Olympian in cycling as well. You could say it runs in the family. There is some pressure to this athletic legacy, but mostly it simply inspired me to know that my family members had found something they loved, worked incredibly hard at it, and were able to be among the best in the World. My family has passed down the notion to me that it is a great privilege to chase a dream, and it never comes without struggle, but it is often in the struggle that you find the joy. I never found that fire with cycling, but I have found it in Nordic skiing.
I developed a love of Nordic skiing as a kid thanks to chocolate bribes by my parents. Which makes this partnership with Ritual such a wonderful and genuine match. Because what is better than being outside in winter and enjoying some chocolate along the way? Besides bribes of sweets, my dad would often weave together tails about the dwarves, gnomes, and elves that dwelled in the forests that lined the trails we were skiing. To this day, I still feel that twinge of wonder when I ski. Nordic skiing is not the easiest sport choice. It requires year-round aerobic and strength training as well as hundreds of hours of technique work to ski gracefully and quickly. Once you have that base, however; it opens up a world of magic. I am constantly blown away by how lucky I am to explore places with my skis on. I love the challenge, humility and triumph that competitive sport provides, but beyond that, I am grateful for the connection to the places I have skied and the people I have skied with that Nordic skiing specifically provides.
I race to experience the fire of competition. I Nordic ski to experience magic in my everyday life. The combination of the two is when I feel most alive. When the gun goes off, I feel completely in the moment and in synch with my body and mind. It is a feeling that I hope every person can experience while doing something they love.
It can feel uncomfortable to ask for so much support to pursue an athletic dream. I often question if I am being selfish. But then I think about the work my team does with the kids in our community, and the work I get to do through organizations like Little Bellas and Fast and Female because of my platform as a professional athlete. Sport makes us feel strong, empowered, humble, proud, disappointed, and joyful. It can create lifelong relationships. It can provide us with greater self-worth, greater respect for others, and a greater appreciation for the world. It teaches us about work ethic, goals, camaraderie, failure and success. I think it helps people be better humans. It certainly has had that effect on me. This is the Olympic dream to me. It’s about victory and loss, sure. But it is also about putting everything you have into something and then being vulnerable enough put your dreams on display. Making the Olympics may seem like a superhuman endeavor, but I think more than that, the journey to get there shows us much of what it means to be human.
I feel incredibly lucky that Anna and Robbie are helping me this year by making my favorite chocolate bar into a funding opportunity so that I can afford to chase this Olympic dream. Whether you choose to buy this bar because you love mint chocolate or because you want to support my ski season, please know that you are fueling a dream that couldn’t be reached without your support!