Last season Summit County native Mikaela Matthews finished 11th in the World Cup standings in freestyle moguls, four points short of a top 10 world ranking. Four points short of what she said would have earned her a spot on the U.S. Ski Team’s A Team. Four points short of having somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 in travel and other expenses involved in competing on a world stage paid by the U.S. Ski Team.
“Basically if I’d gotten one spot better in any competition I competed in this year, I’d be on the A Team,” she recently told the Summit Daily. “It’s the difference between being completely funded and not funded at all.”
But, she said, that’s “a really difficult way to look at it.” And all indications are that it’s not at all how she looks at falling short of having her Olympic dreams funded.
“You can’t be looking towards the past. You can only look forward to what you can do.”
And for Matthews, currently on the U.S. Freestyle B Team, that means going into this World Cup season in the right frame of mind.
If she’s going to make the Olympic team, she said, “It’s going to take that competition mind-set.”
She believes that focus and self-confidence are a skier’s biggest competitive edges.
“It’s who’s mentally strongest that day. It’s who believes in themselves the most.”
Matthews said if the Olympics were to start tomorrow, she’d probably have earned a spot. But the season starts with a clean slate. She’ll have six World Cup competitions to prove herself worthy of a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
Three American women finished higher than her in the world rankings last season, and she said the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team team is guaranteed three spots in the Olympics for moguls, with the potential of adding a fourth competitor.
While last season, her first full season on the World Cup circuit, far exceeded the goals she’d set for herself, she’s since adjusted those goals.
“I’m happy with it, but I’m not satisfied,” she said.
For the 21-year-old whose ski career started at age 6 with the Copper Mountain Race Team, the nonstop offseason training schedule continues. “We usually get most of the month of April off, that’s about it,” she said.
Already this summer she’s spent time training on snow at Mount Hood, Ore., and in Chile. Between trips she’s been at the U.S. Ski Team facilities in Park City, Utah, working on jump technique on the facility’s water ramps.
In September she’ll head to Switzerland to continue training, then it’s back to the U.S. before heading to Finland for the first FIS World Cup mogul competition of the year, in December.
And that’s where much of the costs of competing as a member of the B Team come in.
“The biggest financial drain is travel,” she said.
According to Matthews, she spent somewhere around $20,000 dollars in expenses related to competing last season, and she will have to continue to spend near that amount until she qualifies for the A Team.
“I’m really fortunate to have parents that are very supportive,” she said of how she’s able to handle some of the expense. But she’s also working to raise money to help finance her Olympic dream.
“It’s getting to the point where I’m quite the financial drain on them (her parents),” she said.
Among her efforts to raise money, the former Team Summit skier will return to Frisco in October for a fundraiser at the Backcountry Brewery, Oct. 26. Also, in association with the U.S. Ski Team, she’s set up a fundraising site through Rallyme.com. The site offers athletes a place to raise money through donations, and those who donate can receive prizes, depending on the amount they donate. To date, Matthews has raised $1,600 toward her $20,000 goal.
As to her drive to keep at it, Matthews said it comes down to a love of skiing that was instilled at an early age. She credited her parents with bringing her to the sport, and also her Team Summit coach, Chris Carson. Skiing is still just fun for her, and her competitive drive keeps her striving to improve.
Why moguls? It’s simple, “For me there’s more excitement,” she said.
Follow Mikaela Matthews through her Facebook fan page. Donations to help fund her Olympic pursuits can be made through www.rallyme.com (search Mikaela Matthews).