Olympic gold medalist Maddie Bowman talks PyeongChang preparation, injuries and more.

By Charlotte Carroll
November 16, 2017

Maddie Bowman made history winning the first Olympic gold medal in women's halfpipe skiing at the 2014 Games in Sochi. 

Bowman started skiing at the age of two, and since then, she's earned seven X Games medals, including four consecutive golds in the halfpipe from 2013–2016. 

On the road to the PyeongChang Games, Bowman placed second at the first qualifying event — the Mammoth Grand Prix in early February. Starting her winter season strong, she's headed to the finals on Friday at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, which is one of four remaining Olympic Qualifiers.

Sports Illustrated caught up with Bowman in November to chat about her PyeongChang preparation, injuries and what it means to be an Olympian.

(Editor's Note: The following interview was lightly edited and condensed).

Charlotte Carroll: How does it feel to be coming up on your second Olympics? Where were you mentally the first time around versus where are you now?

Maddie Bowman: I’m excited that the process for the Olympics is finally starting. I feel like in this Olympics for me, there’s a lot more buildup because of being the returning gold medalist. The first time it was really special, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, coming into the games and soaking up everything. This time, I’m not a kid anymore, because I’ve done it. But I’m still really excited coming into it. I just got back from a trip to Austria, and I felt really connected to skiing there and I’m excited to take that into this qualifying season.

CC: What’s the difference feeling connected to skiing versus a bad run?

MB: Skiers are like everyone else; you’ve got good days and bad days. Sometimes, you just don’t feel that connection and flow that comes with skiing. But some days you really feel a lot of flow and it’s cool, I think that’s kind of what makes what we do like art. We put our self expression into it, and we have those moments where you’re a little bit blocked, and then those moments of creativity and fun.

CC: What’s your favorite part of the Olympics?

MB: That’s a good question. I think my favorite part of the Olympics is just sharing that experience with the people in your life, the teammates you travel with, my family being there, my mom. And also sharing that adventure with the people back home, telling them about it and them getting to watch.

CC: So you took second at the first Olympic qualifier at the Mammoth Grand Prix, how are you feeling leading up to the next qualifier, the Copper Grand Prix?

MB: I’m feeling well, I’m feeling excited going into to the Copper Grand Prix, I’m just excited for the season to start. Like I said, I just back from Austria and I felt really good. I’m just excited to start skiing, there’s definitely a lot of buildup from this summer so getting out there will be really nice.

CC: The last time you skied in terms of Olympic Qualifiers was back in January/February, and while you've skied since then, is it tough going that whole time without knowing where you stand?

MB: It can be tricky not competing in the summer, but we have other events like the X Games that take us through March. It is nice to get back to the halfpipe. Us skiers, we do like the summer as its nice to get a little rest.

CC: What’d you do to rest this summer?

MB: I went to the gym, I went mountain biking a lot and I went on some trips to see my family. And a lot of beach time on Lake Tahoe.

CC: How do you prepare and compete differently in the X Games versus the Olympics?

MB: There’s not a ton of differences. At least for me, I try to treat every event the same and I also try to treat every event as just another day of skiing. For me a lot of the preparation is just reminding myself that it’s just another skiing event. There is a lot of buildup, and I’m going to go out there and control what I can control. I want to have my best run.

CC: It sounds like preparation is pretty similar, but how do you approach competition in an Olympic year versus a non-Olympic year?

MB: There is a little a bit of difference. Generally trying to eat well and go to the gym but also to have fun and remember there’s other things going on in your life besides just skiing.

CC: What else has been going on? 

MB: I love skiing and I love my friends and everything about skiing, but I also like to do other things like go to school or do projects at home. It’s nice to have something to give you a little bit of perspective.

CC: How’s the balance of being an athlete and also a college kid?

MB: The balance is tricky. It’s a lot of taking time off from school and then cramming really hard in school. You just have to be on top, that’s the biggest thing for anyone who has a lot to get done in a short amount of time.

CC: Given the importance of eating well for you, how have you maintained a nutritious diet? What foods do you regularly eat?

MB: I try to keep a pretty nutritious diet and I try to keep it simple. In the morning, I basically just have a smoothie with some bananas and milk in it. Throughout the day, I’m just eating well and making that conscious decision. I’m a sucker for cookies and milk after dinner. I just can’t stay away.

CC: You’ve come back from injury after the torn ACL in February 2015, are you healthy now?

MB: Yes, I am. I’m feeling really good, I think just for the knees, what you eat really matters. Just getting those nutrients, it’s crazy.

CC: You’re literally flying in the air all the time, how do you deal with the fear that comes with this? Does it scare you that something more serious could happen one day?

MB: It’s so crazy, I always feel that with fear, you’re afraid before you do it. But then once you’re doing it and you finish whatever you set out to do, you feel so good and you get that high. I think I’m addicted to that, and I think that fear kind of comes along with it. It’s pretty awesome.

CC: The new ad from Milk Life focuses on your mom. Both of your parents taught you to ski, but what’s been the biggest lesson they taught you off the snow?

MB: My mom told me your body is like your temple. It takes you all the way through life and lets you do so many amazing things so it’s really important to respect it, take care of it and feed it well. That was huge for me, and that’s a huge message. I think people these days can be really upset with their bodies but it lets you accomplish some of your greatest memories and achievements.

My dad never limited me on what I could do. If I wanted to do something or if I wanted to play a certain sport, he never based what I could do based on my gender which was really cool and influential, especially being a woman in a male dominated sport, and I think that’s such a great lesson to teach kids as well. It’s just you can do anything, and I think to support and encourage them, that will grow women in sports.

CC: Do you feel a little more pressure with everything going on this year, just to embrace that position as a role model even more?

MB: People ask me how the gold medal changed my life, and I think the way that it changed me is that it gave me this platform and it gave me being a role model to just be able to speak for people and for issues. I think that is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given. It really makes me feel that through what I’m doing and my sport, that I have kind of a purpose to make the world a better place.


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