Printed on: November 11, 2012

Preparing for takeoff

Big year awaits Rigby snowboarder Jessika Jenson

By Marlowe Hereford

The past six months have made 2012 one of the most memorable years of Jessika Jenson's young life.

In May, the effort from fighting through a concussion, torn meniscus and bruised heel in her third season as a professional slopestyle snowboarder paid off when she was named to the U.S. Snowboarding team by coach Bill Enos.

Since then, she has trained in Mt. Hood, Ore., and Waterville, N.H., and got to spend a rare three months at home in Rigby doing everything from mountain biking to boating with friends and family. Her biography was also added to the U.S. Snowboarding site and she is working on adding a double wildcat to her repertoire.

The next 16 months, however, could give the 2009 Rigby High School graduate her biggest adventure yet.

Jenson left Friday to rejoin her teammates and prepare for her inaugural U.S. Snowboarding season, which is less than a month away. Her schedule is impressive and might include an ESPN appearance as she is tabbed to compete in the Winter Dew Tour in December in Breckenridge, Colo., the Winter X Games in January in Aspen, Colo., and a World Cup stop in Sochi, Russia, in February, one year out from the 2014 Olympics.

For as much as reality has sunk in for the 21-year-old who now trains alongside talents such as X Games gold medalist Chas Guldemond and 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Scotty Lago, she is even more ecstatic for what's ahead.

"I can't even explain how excited I am," Jenson said. "It's all coming together. My dream has always been to go to Dew Tour and X Games. I have another dream to make it to the Olympics. It's all coming true."

Jenson said the U.S. team has been a perfect fit. The other snowboarders share her commitment and enthusiasm, and working with Enos has allowed her to progress in ways she never thought possible.

"He's definitely one of the best," Jenson said. "He likes to go back to the basics and just perfect everything. He's really big on style and form. I've noticed a big difference just over the summer."

This year has been just as exciting for her parents, Kevin and Natalie and both of her sisters, all of whom have noticed positive changes in Jenson since she joined the team. One recent example is Jenson's recovery from minor knee surgery in August.

"The U.S. team has been such a blessing in our lives," Natalie Jenson said. "It's amazing because she's always trying to find things to help her. She's been researching how to stay focused to build her self esteem and build confidence and not worry about her competition."

For as much as her life has changed this year, Jenson has also remained grounded despite being ranked 26th in the Ticket to Ride overall slopestyle world rankings.

"I'm still humble and I still hang out with the same people I hung out with in school," she said. "When I'm back home, everything is still the same."

Jenson and the other U.S snowboarders will be looking to qualify for spots on the inaugural U.S. Olympic slopestyle team for Sochi 2014 this winter and next season. If she makes it, Jenson will be the first eastern Idaho winter Olympian since Margo-Walters McDonald, who skied at Innsbruck 1964.

"I hope it's possible," Jenson said. "I feel like we're all a family and we're going to be supporting each other this winter."