Bronze medalist Megan Nick on going from gymnastics to Olympic aerial skiing, and her Vt. roots
Count Megan Nick among the athletes with Vermont ties who returned from Beijing with some new hardware.
Making her Winter Olympics debut, the Shelburne native took home the bronze in women’s aerials, a high-flying free skiing sport full of twists and flips.
VPR’s Kevin Trevellyan spoke with Megan Nick about her Olympic win, and how she got to the biggest stage in winter sports after starting out as a competitive gymnast. Their conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Kevin Trevellyan: First off, congratulations on the medal. You returned to your home in Utah this week. How has it been getting back to real life after your Olympic win?
Megan Nick: First off, thank you for having me. It has been great being on U.S. soil again, really excited to share my story now and hopefully get some more people involved in our sport.
And I get to see my family in a few days. I'm really looking forward to that so we can finally all celebrate together.
Your spot on the podium was secure after your U.S. teammate Ashley Caldwell couldn't stick the landing on her run. What was going through your head as you watched that and realized that you were going to medal?
It was definitely a bittersweet moment. I have looked up to Ashley Caldwell for years since I started the sport. And I have watched her put in the work and push our sport, doing triples since I've started the sport. So she's been up there for a long time. And I know how badly she wanted that gold medal.
So it was a bittersweet moment realizing that she was going to come in fourth place and I was going to be on the podium.
It seemed like athletes with Vermont ties were well-represented in Beijing this year. Can you talk about the role that your Vermont roots played in getting you to the Winter Games?
It was really cool to see how many Vermonters were on that Olympic team. And I think there have been a lot of different qualities that I've picked up from growing up in Vermont. First off, my parents just instilled in us hard work. And that whatever we wanted, we needed to work hard for, and that it wasn't an option not to work hard.
But also growing up in Vermont, I learned to appreciate the outdoors more, the importance of sustainability and the role that we can play in helping our environment while also being able to play in it as well. And that has been really important for me as an aerial skier.
You were actually a competitive gymnast growing up, and you initially had dreams of competing in the Summer Olympics, right?
Yeah, that was a really hard thing to realize, that I wasn't gonna realize that dream of going to the Summer Olympics for gymnastics.
And when I heard of aerial skiing, I realized that this was a new opportunity, that I could take my passion for gymnastics in a new direction, and also have a new challenge, which was exciting as well.
So what drew you to aerials?
I think it's the same mindset of striving for perfection, even though you will never achieve that. And gymnastics and aerial skiing are very similar in that way.
You know, many of the other free ski sports that are really popular these days are centered around creating your own style. And aerial skiing is really just that sport, that you are always trying to become a little bit better every day, and striving for perfection, that perfect jump — even though it'll most likely never come.
Did you grow up skiing in Vermont?
I skied a little bit. I learned at Cochran’s, and then I skied a little bit at Bolton Valley and Sugarbush on the weekends.
But once my competitive gymnastics became more time-consuming, I wasn't really able to make it up to the mountains on the weekends anymore, 'cause I was competing.
So yeah, before I started aerials, I really wasn't skiing that much. So that was something that was also a challenge for me to adapt to.
"... when I heard of aerial skiing, I realized that this was a new opportunity, that I could take my passion for gymnastics in a new direction, and also have a new challenge, which was exciting as well."Megan Nick
When you first started transitioning to aerials, what were those first few jumps like?
Oh gosh, well, I didn't know how to hop turn, which is when you are standing on the ramp, and then you hop and turn your skis forward to go. So I actually needed someone to pick me up and lift me around to get me going straight down the ramp.
So it was a crazy new experience, but I knew the excitement that I felt was something that I wanted to keep having. And that was what made me realize I wanted to take this opportunity.
Now you mentioned that one of your goals is to grow awareness for aerials in the U.S. Can you talk about why that's such a priority for you?
It's been really hard to recruit new people. And I think just because there are so many different opportunities for skiing these days — whether it's aerials, moguls, slopestyle, halfpipe — that it's been difficult for us to find new people who want to learn this sport.
And so I hope that my story, maybe for some gymnasts who have that same issue of, they realize they're not going to be able to go to the Summer Olympics for gymnastics — because it's such a difficult sport in the U.S. to get there — that this provides a new opportunity. That if they work hard enough, they can go to the Winter Olympics instead.
These were your first Winter Games. Do you know what's next?
I do not. I'm just trying to take it day by day. And, you know, I still love the sport of aerial skiing. And so that tells me that my time is probably not done.
I'm also getting master's degree currently. So trying to do both of those, and I've been able to make it work so far. So I look forward to what the future holds.
I know this would be a ways away, but do you know if there's potentially another Winter Olympics appearance in your future?
I mean, if there is, that would be amazing. And I would be extremely grateful for that opportunity. But I also realize that we have a lot of young up-and-comers, and so I'm going to have to work just as hard, if not harder, if I want to make another Olympic winter team.
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