Best friends qualify for Junior Olympics
Olivia Frank and Lauren Mc- Donough have much in common. They grew up living next door to each other in Jamestown, they are best friends and they share a love of skiing. The two young ladies have become outstanding skiers who were invited to compete in the national Junior Olympics held earlier this month.
Frank qualified for the competition, but was unable to attend because of a severe concussion she suffered in a racing accident during a competition that has kept her off the slopes for the past three weeks.
McDonough competed in the Junior Olympics for the first time, qualifying in five events and competing in four. She described the experience as "amazing." "It was so great. The U.S. Ski Team was there and it was great to connect with all of the other freestyle skiers," McDonough said.
Although she did not receive a medal at the Junior Olympics, McDonough said she was pleased with her performance. According to McDonough, she skied in the biggest bracket of competitors. "I came very close to placing in my age group and it is the toughest age group to place in," she said.
Frank began skiing in Austria at the age of three. "My grandfather had a place there and we vacationed there in the winter," Frank said. At age nine she began participating in a racing program at Sugarbush Mountain in Vermont.
McDonough quickly followed suit. "She started first and I wanted to do it because she did it. Her father put her in a racing program and I begged my mom to let me go, too," McDonough said. She went on to say that the racing program didn't work out for her, so she began a freestyle ski program instead.
Each of the girls finds the other's ski program challenging. "I could never do that," Frank said about freestyle skiing. "I can't imagine flying through the air."
"I don't think I could ever do race skiing," McDonough said with a laugh, "I'm not very good at it."
Both girls acknowledged that the sport has some inherent risks. "About a month ago, one of the girls we ski against died in a skiing accident," Frank said. "It was really scary for all of us, but we still had to train the next day."
The risks are minimized, Frank said, by using appropriate safety equipment including helmets and back protectors and by not taking unnecessary risks. "The girl who died was using her downhill skis to free ski," Frank said, describing this as unnecessarily risky. McDonough also mentioned the intrinsic risks associated with the sport. "I've had a broken wrist and a dislocated shoulder, but even a face plant can make you more nervous," McDonough said. She emphasized the need for coaching and for trusting in her ability. "You have to trust yourself and know that you can complete the skill," McDonough said, describing the risks as calculated.
Both Frank and McDonough attend boarding schools that are dedicated to the sport. Frank attends Green Mountain Valley School in Waitsfield, Vt., and McDonough attends Waterville Valley Academy in Waterville Valley, N.H.
The girls' schedules include hours of training on the slopes as well as academics and both acknowledged the grueling schedule can be tiring. "Sometimes I don't even want to go to the mountain," Frank said.
McDonough described the whole lifestyle as both challenging and tiring. "Between training and traveling every weekend for competitions, it is really difficult to maintain a balance," McDonough said.
Although the girls attend different schools and rarely ski together, their friendship has survived and is a source of comfort and support for them. "We're still best friends," Frank said. "She will be coming up for a visit next weekend."
"It's great to have Olivia as a friend," McDonough said. "She understands what I'm talking about when a lot of my other friends don't."
When the girls do get together the last thing they want to do is ski, McDonough said. "Skiing is fun, but it's a little like school now because we do it every day. When we get to hang out together we'd rather go to a movie or do something else for fun," she said.