Grilled: Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson— slope queen & all-around good human
The first time I met Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson, she was an excited 12-year-old standing in our living room in Mammoth Lakes, California. Jamie was smiling and starstruck meeting my roommate… well, landlord, Tara Dakides.
A decade later, Jamie has followed in Tara’s footsteps and has become the most consistent winning female slopestyle rider of all-time, now carrying a well-deserved gold medal around her neck. Jamie has a natural talent and way about her that cannot be duplicated.
Jamie winning gold in the first-ever slopestyle event in the Olympics, and now her fourth Burton US Open along with the TTR World Snowboard Champ title, is only fitting for a rider with so much heart.
First of all, congrats on your gold medal!
How was the whole Olympic experience?
It’s been out of control. Definitely one of the most amazing years of my life, from the beginning. Going into the new year and setting my goals, of course high, but wanting more than anything just to maintain my health and well being. I mean we did something like 5 Olympic qualifiers plus X Games in two months, so it was really back-to-back and just to stay healthy, you know, it’s really challenging to travel and then try to compete at your highest level.
And then when the Olympics was actually happening it was pretty cool for me. I’m the Year of the Horse, in the Chinese years and that week in Sochi it was going into the new moon and the new year, which is now the Year of the Horse, so kind of in a way I knew that it was going to be a good year for me to work really hard and be my best self. And with the Olympics going really well and being able to ride under pressure…I still don’t know how I pulled that off…
Was there a favorite trick or moment in your winning run?
Kind of everything. I had a really challenging practice; I remember crying at the bottom of the course to my sister because I was just so emotional and so much had built up to that exact moment and that exact run, and I couldn’t land anything in practice. I was stressing out. I went up and fell on my first run, and I’m like, “Oh, my god, what the hell am I going to do…” And then of course the hour between first and second runs felt like a lifetime. I knew I was capable of doing what I wanted to do, but there is so much in-between. I was trying to accept whatever was meant to be in my personal path, like, “maybe I’m not supposed to win the Olympics…”
How did you quiet all those thoughts?
I talked to my wax tech Ryan. He was there and he has been a really good support this winter, and he is just really mellow; good vibes. I turned on some music, I had my essential oils up there, some tea… just kind of anything to relax. And then when I went to take my second run I vividly remember taking a moment— and I don’t even know where it came from, somewhere in my heart— and I just felt an urge to dedicate that run and that moment to everyone in my life who had helped me get to that place. It wouldn’t be possible without all the support I have from my family and friends and sponsors, and all the fans who really believe in me. And it instantly brought this calming, grounding energy, all the way through my body… and then I just kind of relaxed.
I had my Nas on, and when I dropped in I kind of fell off the first rail early and I was like, “darn it,” and then I’m like, “alright, leave it back there, you still have your whole run.” And it was like the rest of the run, especially as I went into the jumps, went into slow motion. Unreal. Even the music slowed down, and I kind of just knew it was going to be perfect. I knew even though I hadn’t landed that run, that I could, and I could see myself landing it, and really visualize it. So when I went really big on my switch back 5 I was like dropping out of the sky, and I was like, “there’s no way I’m not landing this.” And then going into the last jump, where I fell the run before on the front 7, I’m like, “just fricken’ stomp it.” And it was close… the compression on those jumps was really difficult, so when I landed that 7 my heart just opened, and I was like, “yes!” I was so happy. And then to look over and see my family and friends and everyone in the stadium just jumping up and down… I was so happy.
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And then after all of this, you go into this crazy mainstream media tour… what was your favorite moment of that?
The media tour was really fun. Thankfully, I got to stay in Russia a few days to decompress and do some media there. Then I flew right to LA to go see Ms. Ellen [Degeneres], who was amazing. I’ve always loved her and her spirit but it was really refreshing to see her in real life and realize that that’s just how she is. She is so nice, and down to earth and funny, so that was really cool. And then I flew back to New York for the week to do Good Morning America, and The Night Show…. The Late Night Show, whatever it’s called [laughs]. The Tonight Show, with Fallon, who is hilarious. I don’t have a TV at home, so I know of these people but I don’t watch them regularly so it was kind of fun to not be super star-struck over anyone, just knowing that we’re all humans and they’re really talented with what they do and it was an honor to be there with them.
Going back to Ellen really quick, did you have any idea that she was going to surprise you with your whole family?
No! I was so happy! The only one in my family who didn’t make it to Russia was my little brother, so when I saw him— I knew that my two sisters were there, one who is from San Diego, and Joanie, who went on the tour with me— but I had no idea the rest of my family was there. And my dad… I was just so happy. Ellen is the best.
How is it now, being here and transitioning from all that insane mainstream media? Getting back to snowboarding, and back to the US Open?
It feels so good to be back in the mountains. Five days in New York will pretty much kill someone. No, I really enjoyed it, and it was fun to be there but it’s so refreshing to be back in the mountains and at the US Open. I thought about just taking the rest of the season off and going and riding pow, but then I realized that if I was going to be supporting FIS events all winter, the least I could do was go support the roots of snowboarding. I love the US Open and I love all of the Opens around the world, and I think they’ve done so much to help our sport that it was an easy decision once I put it all into perspective.
Do you know, off the top of your head, how old you were when you first started competing in the Opens?
My first one was when I was 15, in Vermont. I had to do the Wildcards to get in, and I got in, and thankfully I got 3rd place that year and I’ve been getting invited back ever since.
How’s the course this year?
The course this year is really fun. I’m definitely missing Vermont. I love Colorado, don’t get me wrong, but Vermont just felt like home for the US Open. My grandparents are out there, so it was kind of like a small family reunion for me. But Vail is beautiful, and Burton takes really good care of us; we’re in a beautiful lodge right by the mountain, so I’m grateful to be here.
Right on, thanks so much!