15 Utahns prove that pursuing an Olympic dream takes unparalleled determination, resilience and desire

Published: Sunday, Feb. 2 2014 10:05 a.m. MST

Park City’s Joss Christensen didn’t find out he’d made the first Olympic slopestyle ski team until a few days after he won the final qualifying event. In fact, that victory was his first in a major event, although he’s been on many podiums in his young career.

The 22-year-old graduate of the Winter Sports School is part of a young and dynamic freeskiing team that promises to make the Winter Games exciting and unpredictable.

* * *

Jared Goldberg hoped he’d earn a spot on the Alpine ski team, but the 22-year-old Skyline High graduate wasn’t entirely convinced it was possible. This was, after all, his first complete season on the World Cup circuit, and Alpine racing is as much about experience as it is about courage and skill.

He was fortunate that he was able to ski a few World Cups last season, one of them in Wengen, Switzerland. He finished 28th in the combined and then 12th in the downhill, proving to himself and his coaches that he deserved a shot at the Olympics.

* * *

Preston Griffall knows both the joy of making an Olympic team and the agony of watching from home. The 29-year-old Salt Lake native competed in the 2006 Olympics in doubles luge but missed competing in 2010 after losing a race-off with teammates.

While he wasn’t certain he wanted to commit to training for a third Olympic Games, he and partner Matt Mortensen eventually decided to give it another shot. He’s a three-time luge start champ for the U.S. and a two-time junior world champion. Like Fogt, he’s a member of the Army’s world-class athlete program.

His best World Cup finish this season was sixth at Lake Placid, but the Olympus High graduate is hopeful they can do better than that in Sochi.

* * *

Faye Gulini is one of the few snowboarders who had to leave her home state to pursue her sport. The former Brighton Bengal grew up riding at Snowbird and moved to Vail, Colo., to pursue snowboard cross. It paid off as she made the 2010 Olympics, where she made it to the quarterfinals.

The 21-year-old overcame a knee injury in 2012 and is hopeful about her chances in Russia as she placed in the top eight in the FIS World Cup on the course last year.

* * *

Anders Johnson is only 24, but he’s making his third Olympic appearance. He made his first Olympic team in 2006 at age 16, and he’s been competing on the World Cup circuit since 2009. The Park City resident had a knee injury before the 2010 Games but has come back to do some of his best ski jumping since then. He tied with Peter Frenette in the U.S. large hill national championship in August, and then won the normal hill national title outright. He finished second at the Olympic trials on Dec. 29. His sister Alissa Johnson narrowly missed making the U.S. women’s ski jumping team.

* * *

Sage Kotsenburg waited until the last Olympic selection event to show the world what he’s capable of this season. The 20-year-old Park City resident’s victory at Mammoth Mountain secured his spot on the U.S. Olympic slopestyle snowboading team — an event that will make its debut at the games.

Big tricks are Kotsenburg’s speciality as he won a bronze in the X Games Big Air competition in 2011. But he's a proven contender in slopestyle as he won silver medals in 2010 and 2012. He was also the youngest ever Dew Tour champion in slopestyle at 16 in 2009-2010.

* * *

Park City’s Megan McJames will make her second Olympic appearance in Sochi. She competed in the women’s slalom in Vancouver, but didn’t finish.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere