PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Four years ago, a 15-year-old Maggie Voisin was the youngest athlete Team USA sent to the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. She wasn’t yet old enough to drive a car, but she was one of the best freestyle skiers in the game.
The Kalispell, Montana, native surprised the entire skiing community by taking silver in slopestyle at the 2014 X Games Aspen. Her name was tossed around in plenty of gold medal conversations leading up to Sochi, but a devastating injury prevented her from ever having the chance to prove herself.
She fractured her fibula on the third day of training in Sochi. She walked in the Opening Ceremony but missed out on what was meant to be her true moment in the spotlight.
A 19-year-old Voisin returned to Olympic snow on Saturday, ready to finally show the world what she’s made of.
“Four years ago, when I fractured my fibula, I told myself I would do whatever it took to get back to these Games,” she said. “It’s definitely been a rollercoaster of a few years with lots of ups and downs, but just to be here today and to drop in to my first Olympics is truly an honor.”
Voisin barely slid into the finals after earning 72.80 points on her qualifying runs, securing the last of 12 spots.
She fell on both of her first two finals runs. Knowing the event takes the best out of three, she gave it all she had on her last run and managed to slide into third place with a score of 81.20.
She sat on the tip of the podium until Great Britain’s Isabel Atkin edged her off with an 84.20 run to claim bronze. Switzerland's Sarah Hoefflin and Mathilde Gremaud took gold and silver, respectively. Voisin finished in fourth, but still considered the day’s event to be a win.
“Fourth is definitely bittersweet but I just have to take away the positives and small wins,” she said. “Dropping in I told myself, ‘Alright, third time’s the charm.’ [I’m] just super, super grateful to squeeze into the finals there and I knew I had more to give... to be able to put down one run is really all I could’ve asked for.”
Teammate and defending Olympic silver medalist, Devin Logan, finished in 10th after a pair of falls in the final. Logan, who turned 25 on competition day, simply smiled and waved after her final run.
Ever the optimist, perhaps some of that smile stemmed from the fact that she, possibly more so than anyone else on the team, enjoys the sport of freestyle skiing more than the glory that can come with it.
“I mean three runs, [and] I landed one!” she joked. “Not the cleanest again, but it’s the Olympics. You’ve got to send it and leave nothing on the table and just be happy with it, so that’s what I am.”
Perhaps some of it was because she still has a shiny silver medal hanging in her bedroom to keep her company if she’s ever down.
“No one can take that away from me,” she said. “When you push yourself to the next level, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I can go home and look at it and still be proud of myself.”
Or maybe, she just knows that her time at the Olympic Winter Games is far from over and she still has plenty of time to make her mark in PyeongChang. Logan will compete in the halfpipe this weekend and become the first American to compete in both slopestyle and halfpipe at the same Games.
Every athlete's Olympic story is a little different. For Voisin, redemption didn’t come in the form of a medal this time around. Logan still has another chance to grasp one. But both of these women made it clear that the opportunity to ski and the passion they have for the sport is what drives them. Medals are just icing on the cake.
Cat Hendrick is a student in the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is part of TeamUSA.org’s coverage team for the PyeongChang Games.