Road to Sochi: Team Oakley Athlete of the Week – Kaya Turski

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As many regions brace for the coming of winter, a handful of the world’s elite athletes prepare to compete on sports’ most prestigious global stage. The 2014 Winter Olympics are upon us and the remote region of Sochi, Russia is set to host the twenty-second edition of the biggest winter sporting event in the world. As the days until the Open Ceremony count down, we invite you to get to know some of the most passionate, fearless, determined and awe inspiring athletes, some of whom you will undoubtedly see on the podium come February. Each of these athletes strive to compete in Sochi as representatives of their home nations, but are bound together, despite national boundaries, as members of another exclusive team: #TeamOakley.

This week’s Team Oakley Athlete of the week is the most dominant women’s slopestyle skier in the game, Kaya Turski. It’s been a challenging six months for the three-time X Games Gold Medalist, after having torn the ACL in her left knee while practicing this past August. When it happened, many believed the Olympics were no longer a possibility. Kaya’s been open with her training and rehab ever since, penning a regular column on Huffington Post and sharing videos and photos of her progress via social media. She then surprised everyone be appearing at and competing in the Grand Prix event in Park City last week, where she finished third and locked up her spot on Team Canada roster. Today, she’s in Aspen, set to compete and hopefully return to her Gold Medal-winning ways.

Quite the story. We had to catch up with her to hear more.

You’ve been through a lot of adversity the past several months, what would it mean to you to be healthy and an Olympian and representing Canada in Sochi?

It would mean overcoming one of the biggest feats in my life. When I tore my ACL six months before my event in Sochi, I thought it might be over, or at least that my chances of going and competing at my level weren’t great. But I quickly turned that around and decided to give it everything I had to make it and drop in healthy and battle this situation with a positive attitude. When I drop in, I will have made it!

At what point did you set your sights on becoming an Olympian? When did you realize that goal was realistic?

I used to snowboard when I was a little kid and wanted to go to the Olympics as a halfpipe snowboarder. Then I got into competitive rollerblading and let that dream go, and same when I began freestyle skiing. My dream was re-sparked when slopestyle skiing was included in the Olympics about three years ago. Since then it’s been a major goal of mine to go and compete and introduce my sport to the world.

What is your favorite Olympic moment (personal or historic)?

For a period during my career, X Games was the goal for me. It was all about X. And so when the Vancouver Olympics were coming up I didn’t think too much of it – until I watched the Opening Ceremonies. I remember being glued to the TV in awe at how special the ceremony was. I remember imagining what it must be like to walk in there representing your country and thinking how great it would be to go for skiing if I ever had the chance.

What has your rehab program from the injury included and how do you foresee it making your stronger heading into the Olympics?

My rehab was in fast forward mode simply because I only had four months to make it back to snow to train for the Olympics. I had the surgery in Ontario, Canada and three weeks later I moved out west to Vancouver for three months for an intensive rehab which included knee specific stabilization exercises, general strength workouts, anaerobic cycling, hot/cold tubbing, physical therapy and chiropractic therapy. These were six days a week.

I foresee going in strong to the Olympics because I put my heart and soul into not only the physical training but a whole bunch of time into the mental. I consider this comeback a major mental test.

You have an incredible array of accolades, but what would it mean to you to add an Olympic medal to your trophy case?

A beautiful journey with an amazing ending.

For more on Kaya Turski, check out her Oakley bio.