Brita Sigourney to represent U.S. in ski halfpipe

Brett Wilhelm/ESPN

Brita Sigourney placed fifth in women's Ski SuperPipe at X Games Aspen 2014.

Next week, Brita Sigourney will make her Olympic debut in the women's ski halfpipe finals, which take place next Friday, Feb. 20, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

To get to this point, Sigourney has had to survive the ups and downs of her freeskiing career. This time last year, on her first trip to Russia for an Olympic test event, she fell during a practice run in the halfpipe, cracked her collarbone and injured her shoulder.

When she went in for surgery, the doctors told her that she'd also reinjured her ACL, which she'd fully torn the season before. The year before that, she broke her pelvis after decking the pipe at the Dew Tour at Snowbasin, Utah.

"I've gotten really good at the rehab process," Sigourney, 24, said. "I think it actually aids my skiing."

She says the process has made her push harder, and every time she gets back on snow it reaffirms how much she loves the sport. She hasn't made it through a full season without injury since 2010, before her first year at X Games. Each year, she comes back strong, grabbing X Games medals, winning Grand Prix events and at X Games Aspen 2012, she landed a 1080, becoming one of the first female skiers to do so in a contest. But every winter her season has come to a standstill due to injury. She says she hasn't had a chance to prove how good she can be.

Tom Zikas/U.S. Freeskiing

"Hopefully we're going to have an American sweep," Sigourney said about Sochi.

This year, she's hoping to break that pattern.

After being out for seven months doing rehab on her shoulder, she got back on skis last October and immediately picked up where she'd left off. She landed on the podium at every event she entered in December. On Jan. 17, her 24th birthday, at Utah's Park City Grand Prix, she scored enough points to qualify for the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team.

Sigourney comes from a family of athletes -- her dad is an athletic director and her mom is a water polo coach -- but for a long time skiing wasn't even her strongest sport.

A Carmel, Calif., native, she grew up skiing on Tahoe's Alpine Meadows freestyle team and got invited to junior world championships in 2010. She was also a strong enough water polo player to score a full ride to the University of California at Davis.

Three years ago, during her junior year at UC Davis, she gave up her water polo scholarship and moved to Utah to train with the U.S. Freeskiing team. She picked skiing over school -- and over a lot of other things.

"I'm doing very part-time school at Westminster College, kind of just to pass the time," she said. "They don't have my major and as a transfer, I lost a full year of credits."

She's thinking about what she'll do after she's done competing -- finishing school, finding a career -- but for now, she says she can't worry about it too much, because it gets in the way of skiing.

She's worried about the physical side, too, and how much more wear her body can take. Every time she gets hurt her mom asks her if she wants to keep skiing. She's thought about it extensively, stressed by the idea of working hard only to get benched again, but every time, she tells her mom yes.

"I worry about how my body is going to feel in 20 years, but you only get a once in a lifetime chance," she said.

This year just may be that chance. Going into Sochi, she says she's feeling strong and skiing well. She's trying to keep her expectations low, but ask her point blank what's going to happen in the Olympic women's halfpipe, and she doesn't flinch.

"Hopefully we're going to have an American sweep," Sigourney said. "And I'm going to win gold."

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