Jasmine Campbell, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ one-woman Winter Olympics team, finally got a chance to compete Tuesday, racing down the hill in the giant slalom over a messy course made slushy by warmer-than-usual temperatures and light rain, and though she didn’t finish in upper echelons of the giant slalom, she said she had a great time.
Campbell was born on St. John but moved with her family to Idaho when she was 9 years old. It was in the Pacific Northwest that she took up skiing, eventually competing on the international stage and now representing the territory of her birth in the games in Sochi.
She arrived in the Russian resort city Feb. 6 for the opening ceremony and has been waiting ever since for her two events.
Mother Nature didn’t help. According to a report on ESPN.com, the race took place in a light rain that turned the course into slush.
"I don’t believe I’ve ever skied in such awful conditions," Campbell told the Source in an email interview. "It was raining so hard I had to wipe my goggles mid run so that I could see where I was going."
Campbell completed her two runs in a combined time of 3:05:05, 28.18 seconds behind gold medal winner Tina Maze of Slovenia, who successfully defended her 2010 giant slalom gold medal.
Maze celebrated her victory by throwing herself face first into the slushy snow, pretending to swim, according to ESPN.com.
Second place and the silver medal went to Anna Fenninger of Austria, and Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany skied off with third-place bronze medal.
Campbell’s time put her in 56th place, just behind Alessi Afi Dipol of Tongo and just in front of Ornella Oettl Reyes of Peru. There were 71 women competing in the event Tuesday.
But though the results were disappointing, that didn’t change Campbell’s attitude.
"To be perfectly honest despite the rainy, freezing weather and bad course conditions, I had an absolute blast!" she said. "I’ve never felt so amped up in my life. I’ve found that it’s hard to be disappointed in a result when the process was so much fun. I had a great time and look forward to doing better in the slalom regardless of the conditions.”
“Every girl who crossed the finish line was relieved and happy to be there regardless of their performance,” Campbell continued. “And it was a real privilege to find myself in such a supportive, accepting environment at a level such as this."
Slalom and grand slalom are two of the five Alpine ski events, with competition held for both men and for women. The downhill event features the longest courses and the highest speeds, according to the Sochi Winter Games website. (See link below.)
In downhill, athletes reach speeds as high as 120 kilometers an hour, almost 75 mph.
In the slalom, athletes must ski a course marked with flags and gates that are spaced much closer together than in the downhill event. This puts a greater emphasis on agility.
In the giant slalom, the gates are placed farther apart than in the slalom.
Women’s races have between 46 to 58 gates, and the result is the sum of the skier’s times on two different runs.
Campbell made her first run in 1:32:05, and her second in a nearly identical 1:33:00.
The slalom will be held Friday.
Campbell thanked the people in the territory who have sent her messages of support.
"I want to really thank everyone that watched or sent me a message of support or simply sent good vibrations,” she said.
"You guys have really made this whole experience all the more incredible and I just hope I’ll have the chance to reciprocate the love you’ve all shown me.”