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We Spoke To Olympic Gold Medalist Jamie Anderson About Gender Inequality, Coping During Covid & Being A Badass Snowboarder

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Jamie Anderson

As the most decorated rider in all of snowboard slopestyle history, Jamie Anderson knows how to make a name for herself. 

Anderson became the youngest ever Winter X Games medalist in 2005 when she was just 15 years old, just five years after picking up a snowboard for the first time.  

Since then she has taken home two Olympic gold medals and recently became the 2021 LAAX Slopestyle winner. She also teamed up with Olay Body on a winter skin campaign, proving that there’s not much Anderson can’t achieve when she puts her mind to it. 

But becoming one of snowboarding’s most dominant figures is not always a smooth slope, especially as one of the few women making a name for herself in a male-dominated sport. 

Anderson is no stranger to the challenges of being a woman in sport but if there’s one thing her impactful career proves, is that no challenge is too great. 

Now, as she navigates training, competitions, and running her non-profit for children in sport, Anderson is paving a way for a younger generation of riders ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

We chatted exclusively with the Lake Tahoe native about her journey from a young girl with big ambitions to achieving even her wildest goals. 

YT: How did you first get into snowboarding? At what point did you realize you wanted to pursue competitive snowboarding on a full-time basis? 

JA: I started snowboarding when I was 9 years old. My family was a big adventure family and my two older sisters loved snowboarding and they inspired me to get started. I was on the Sierra at Tahoe Freestyle team and we started competing right away through the USASA series. At about age 13, I realized I really wanted to be a professional snowboarder and pursued traveling the world and competing in professional events. That year I qualified for X games and things started to kick-off.

YT: How did you get on the track of becoming an Olympic athlete?  

JA: Honestly I had no idea I could go to the Olympics for snowboarding. When I first started, X Games was the main event. Slopestyle also wasn’t in the Olympics at the time, only Halfpipe. As soon as we found out that they were adding Slopestyle to the Olympics, I knew that I wanted to compete at the Games and take home the first-ever gold medal. Truthfully everything just aligned in perfect timing.

YT: Did you notice at a young age that snowboarding was a male-dominated sport or was this an awareness that came later?  

JA: I knew it was always mostly boys. Growing up I was such a tomboy, I think that’s why I loved it. I’d always snowboard with the guys and try to be as fast as them. As I grew up up in the industry, I quickly realized there was quite an imbalance. Thankfully all the events today are equal prize money and it feels good to see how much the women have progressed and pushed the sport in a beautiful way.

YT: Who are your mentors and role models? Is there an Olympian or two that you looked at as a kid who inspired you?  

JA: My mom has always been my biggest inspiration and mentor. She’s such a strong beautiful woman, who truly believes anything is possible. I always grew up looking up to athletes like Janna Megan, Gretchen Bleiler, and Danny Kass. Some were Olympians and some were just amazing snowboarders. Growing up, I wasn’t attached to the idea of being an Olympian; I just wanted to be a snowboarder.

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YT: How did your parents help or hinder her rise to star athlete? And do you have advice for parents with kids who have Olympic ambitions? 

JA: Goodness, being one of eight children, I have so much appreciation and respect for my parents! My mom was able to be a stay-at-home mom and ran a lawn care business with the help of my sisters and me, and my father was a firefighter who worked very hard and saved many people. Huge shout-out to parents making it happen. My parents really encouraged us to be our best selves and that anything was possible. We were homeschooled and raised very naturally, always outside in the garden, the forest, or at the lake and rivers. I’m so thankful for the way my parents raised us; it’s definitely what has made me the person I am today. 

YT: Are there any standout moments in your career where you feel you were underprivileged because of being a woman? Did it make it more difficult to get access to funding or training? 

JA: Yes for sure! There’s been a lot of stuff over the years but I always tried not to let it get me down. Although the contests are equal pay, I still see a challenge with some sponsorships and overall support. 

It still seems like it’s a boy's club sometimes and that’s really hard to deal with. But it’s not just snowboarding, there's such an imbalance in the whole world. I’m just thankful and also hopeful that positive changes are always happening. 

Even this year at X Games I was upset that they didn’t have real snow for women or knuckle huck for women, so I spoke up and actually got invited to compete with the men in knuckle huck. I’m hoping this will spark change and next year there will be a women’s event.

YT: What is your relationship like with other women or other people in the sport? Do you find solidarity with one another or is it important to keep things competitive?  

JA: I feel like the Snowboard community is my family! I’m really close with the competitors and although we are all competitive, we see the beauty in the friendships we’ve shared over the years.

YT: Did you ever feel like you don't have what it takes? Did you ever doubt yourself and if so, what did you do about it? 

JA: It happens a lot! There have been times where I just want to give up. When I crash and get injured, or embarrassed myself on TV, or just don't have the power to try or learn new scary tricks, I totally want to quit and give up.  

I have learned over the years if we change our thoughts the things around us change. I’ve had to dig deep to rise above and overcome lots of challenges and I know that’s what makes me stronger and more adaptable to whatever life throws me.

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YT: As much as we all love the story of what it takes to become an Olympian, what we don’t see very often is what happens when Olympians have to become normal people and get back to real life after competing. Is this something you are concerned about? 

JA: That’s a deep question! I feel I’m truly just trying to live life moment to moment and enjoy each day. I set goals and have dreams of the future but I don’t stress much. I want to live a sustainable and beautiful life, grow organic food, have a family, live off the land and snowboard, surf, and explore for life.

YT: How has COVID impacted your training on a psychological level? Does the lack of clarity about when qualifiers could take place impact how you approach your preparations? 

JA: Things are kind of crazy right now to say the very least and I’m just doing my best to not let it all affect me negatively, even though it’s really sad times — so much fear in the media and so much turmoil around the world.  

The most important thing I can do is stay healthy — mentally, physically, emotionally, and most importantly spiritually. I don’t want to live life with so much fear and I wish the message would come across to stay healthy, eat good local whole food, cut out processed foods, take vitamins, tonic herbs, drink clean water and practice good thoughts. 

We’re going to get through this. I can’t wait to see the world come back together and I really believe there's light at the end of the tunnel and the best is yet to come. More community, compassion, love, and good energy globally.

YT: Do you think the snowboarding sport could be doing more to foster young women's ambitions? What advice would you have for young women entering the sport? 

JA: My nonprofit, The Jamie Anderson Foundation was created to help get kids into sports and overall just live a healthy and active lifestyle. I do think we can do more and it starts with each and every one of us doing our part. 

I’d love to see more young ladies in the sport and I’d love to host more women’s events. I would also love to see events and sponsors supporting women just as much as they support men. The time is now.

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.