Sochi 2014: Canadian freestyle skier Rosalind Groenewoud

Competing in the new Olympic sport of ski halfpipe, "Roz G" is considered a serious medal contender for Canada

Sochi 2014: Canadian freestyle skier Rosalind Groenewoud

Source: Best Health magazine, March/April 2014; Image courtesy of Canadian Olympic Committee

She’s known in the ski world as ‘Roz G,’ a shortened moniker for an athlete who is long on talent. Born in Calgary, Rosalind Groenewoud grew up doing gymnastics, playing basketball and soccer, and, of course, skiing. ‘I’ve dabbled in quite a few things,’ she says. ‘My parents wanted to introduce me to lots of activities and to be well-rounded.’

The Canadian freestyle skier, 2012 Winter X Games champion and 2011 FIS World Champion (Halfpipe) is considered a serious medal contender for the new Olympic sport of ski halfpipe, in which skiers execute a series of tricks and jumps down two curved ramps of hard-pressed snow. Her event takes place on Feb. 20.

It’s a sport that can be very demanding on the body, and even the strongest sometimes get hurt. (Groenewoud underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees last December, but at press time was expected to recover in time for Sochi.) ‘There are quite a few injuries in my sport,’ she says. ‘Having all your muscles well-balanced and as strong as possible is the best way to prevent this.’

The 24-year-old can complete awe-inducing twists and rotations. But she’s also well-known for her sense of beauty and style’she counts Coco Chanel among her role models’including the signature CoverGirl red lip colour she wears during competitions. It’s a nod to the U.S. women’s pro basketball pioneer Lisa Leslie. ‘Lisa was a great spokesperson for female athletics, and she always wore red lipstick on the court,’ explains Groenewoud. ‘So for me the lipstick symbolizes the idea that strength and femininity aren’t mutually exclusive.’

Perhaps it’s also a gesture to counteract the male-dominated nature of her sport, which Groenewoud admits attracts fewer women in general. ‘How to get more girls involved in and excited about our sport is always a big topic of conversation,’ she says. Groenewoud coaches an all-girls’ ski camp in the summer on the Whistler glacier. She enjoys giving big-sisterly advice and encouraging girls to pursue extreme sports: ‘It’s the greatest feeling watching a girl land one of her first jumps,’ she says. ‘Having that solid female friend within your sport can make you last so much longer in it.’

Groenewoud had that type of friendship with former teammate Sarah Burke, the freestyle skiing pioneer who died in 2012 at age 29 after a crash while training in Utah. It was Burke’s determination that helped get the sport included as an event at this year’s Olympics. Groenewoud is grateful for Burke’s contribution, and for her mentorship.

Finally being able to compete at the Olympics is extremely rewarding: ‘All that hard work, money and travel ended up being worth it years later.’

Groenewoud has spoken with other athletes, including decorated rower Marnie McBean, about their Olympic experiences. ‘Marnie said that the best feeling in the world is getting to the beginning of your event and knowing that you’ve done absolutely everything possible. Having that feeling at the top of the halfpipe has been my focus. Now it’s time to let it fly.’

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!