JessiKa Jenson, a Rigby native, will be among the athletes competing in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, which begins Feb. 9 and will conclude Feb. 25.
“I started skiing when I was six years old, and I switched to snowboarding when I was 10,” Jenson said. “Ever since then, I fell in love with the sport.”
Jenson said she grew up skiing at Kelly Canyon Ski Resort where her grandmother worked. Her family enjoyed skiing every weekend.
“Snowboarding has always been a passion of mine,” Jenson said.
After watching the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, she made it a goal to represent Team USA.
“I felt inspired and thought it was so cool these athletes were representing the U.S.; it was a dream of mine to go,” Jenson said.
At the age of 24, Jenson competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where she performed the newly approved Slopestyle. She will compete in Slopestyle and Big Air this year, another newly approved event.
In Slopestyle, athletes ski or snowboard down a course with numerous obstacles like rails, jumps and other features. They earn points for amplitude, quality of tricks and originality.
Big Air says it all in the name. It is all about catching air and performing tricks. The snowboarders start at the top of a snow ramp and perform tricks off the jump. The ramp in PyeongChang, South Korea, stands 49 meters tall and reaches 40 degrees at its steepest points, making it the biggest in the world. Jenson said Big Air skiing has not been approved.
To be a part of such intense competitions, Jenson works hard year-round. Throughout the winter season, she trains by snowboarding five days a week, making it her full-time job.
“I like to ride during my peak performance; I am full of gratitude when I ride my best,” Jenson said.
During the summer she focuses on building strength, while winter is about maintaining her strength and improving. She has to be physically and mentally fit and is constantly improving both.
“Snowboarding does not come naturally to me,” Jenson said. “It is not a natural talent, and I have to work hard and put in extra effort.”
Jenson said she is glad to be in the spotlight as a role model to her Idaho community and the world.
“My goal behind snowboarding is to inspire kids to go for their dreams and that anything is possible if you work hard and are willing to sacrifice things,” Jenson said. “You can truly do anything that you set your mind to, and I just really want to inspire kids in this area to go for their dreams.”
Jenson said she has found a lot of success and could not do it without the support and help of her parents, Natalie and Kevin Jenson.
“My parents have always been supportive of my dreams, and I can’t thank them enough for allowing me to follow my dreams,” Jenson said.
Jenson said her parents have supported her from the very beginning. Instead of telling her being a professional snowboarder was not practical, they pushed her to reach her dream and accomplish her goal.
Once the 2018 Winter Olympics come to a close, Jenson said it will be tough, but she will decide what to do with her future.
“I have big plans for my future,” Jenson said. “I am currently an online student at Utah State and I have done just about all the online classes I can take. I believe education is important, and I want to see what the college life is all about.”
Jenson plans on studying nursing with hopes of becoming a nurse anesthetist. Depending on how the Olympics go this year, she will decide whether it is time to stop professional snowboarding to focus on education.
“It is a big investment for the 2022 Beijing Olympics and I really want to finish my education. I have big plans,” Jenson said. “I want to be able to buy a house and support a family one day.”
Jenson said she is grateful for the continued support from her family, friends, sponsors and community.
“Nobody thought a girl from Kelly Canyon would be in the Olympics,” Jenson said.