Jessika Jenson of Rigby will head into the first of four qualifiers this week as she seeks a spot on the 2018 Olympic snowboarding team.
A 2014 veteran, Jenson loved representing her country and said everything was incredible from the Opening Ceremony to the actual event. She has been working hard the last four years for the chance to represent Team USA and Southeast Idaho again.
“I really wanted to go to the Olympics again because it’s such a cool experience,” she said.
Jenson did well at the season’s first big air World Cup competition in Milan, Italy, placing 15th overall and leading the Team USA women. She hopes the momentum will continue through to the Olympics.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said her mother, Natalie Jenson. “Two times would be cool. A gold medal would be even better!”
Jessika feels confident, yet admits that it’s tough competing against the best in the world in a stacked field of riders with a sport that is constantly changing, and a large number of up-and-comers.
“It’s tough mentally and physically challenging. All you can do is give it your best,” she said.
Securing one of the four positions looks good.
“Jessika is looking pretty good for the fourth spot. But you never know what will happen,”Natalie Jenson said. “Is it your day? There’s so many factors. A lot of it is mental.”
Jessika began skiing at age 6 and switched to snowboarding at age 10.
“She never put her skis back on again,” Natalie Jenson said.
“When I first started it was for fun. To this day it’s still fun,” Jesskia Jenson said.
Her dream began in earnest when she watched the 2002 Olympic half-pipe competition. Her family was skiing and snowboarding at Kelly Canyon every weekend and every chance they got, and she won her first competition there at age 12.
At 16, she was discovered at Grand Targhee by a coach from Jackson Hole and began training with him. That year she took second at Nationals. By 18, she was on the professional circuit. By 20, she was on Team USA, and by 22 competed in the Olympics.
She feels thankful to compete in something she loves so much.
“I enjoy snowboarding because you forget about life and let everything go. I love the feeling of making turns, being outdoors, and feeling the snow and wind in your face. There’s nothing like it,” she said.
The sport can also be demanding with time on the slopes, in the gym, and traveling, she said. She has been to every continent except Antarctica. She feels proud of the fact that she was able to squeeze in four online classes as she works toward a degree in nursing to become a nurse anesthetist.
“It’s hard competing with the best in the world,” she said. “We’re always being judged against someone else. But I’m thankful I’ve made it this far and have been able to travel the world and have these experiences.”
She feels her previous experience in the Olympics would give her an edge.
“I know what it’s like under pressure,” she said. “Your mind is super powerful—90 percent is mental and 10 percent is physical. You have the tricks, but can you put them down under the pressure?”
Living in the moment has become the mantra of her mental game. She plans to visualize her run beforehand but then live in the moment and be in tune with her body and the snow conditions. She also works to balance the butterflies with remaining calm and relaxed.
Her new focus could help her succeed if she has another shot in the Olypmics.
“It was a dream of mine to go, but I feel like I could have done better,” she said.
And she is not afraid to go after her dreams.
“I know I’m very dedicated and motivated to reach that goal,” she said. “Whatever my heart dreams I will do.”
She hopes to inspire youth and others in the community to seek their dreams too.
“Anything is possible,” she said.
When she encounters negativity she uses that as fire and recognizes that it was because they were too scared to go for their dreams.
“So go for it. No matter what. It’s super rewarding,” she said.
Not too many Olympians come from southeast Idaho.
“It would be so cool to put southeast Idaho on the map again,” Natalie Jenson said. “Fingers crossed!”