Emily Cook of the USA practices before the Ladies Aerials Qualification for the FIS Freestyle World Championships at Deer Valley Resort on February 3, 2011 in Park City, Utah. Cook qualified in first place. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT—(Dec. 6) Five-time U.S. champion and ex-gymnast Emily Cook grew up in suburban Boston and never let go of a dream to compete in the Olympics. Two Olympic Games and six World Championships later, she is the dominant force in women's aerials. Read on to see what makes Emily tick.
Name: Emily Cook Current Location: Park City, Utah (from Belmont, MA) Sport: Freestyle aerials School: University of Utah (Belmont High School, CVA) How/when did you decide you wanted to compete: I have always been obsessed with the Olympic Games. At four years old I started skiing and doing gymnastics and found an outlet for all my childhood energy. At age 12, when I discovered aerials skiing, I realized it was the perfect combination of my two favorite sports, and I knew that I wanted to go to the Olympics and represent my country. Biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2002 I was faced with one of my biggest athletic challenges. After years of dreaming of and working towards being an Olympian, I qualified for my first Olympic Games in Salt Lake City but two weeks later I landed a jump short of the landing hill and shattered both of my feet. I was devastated, but knew that no matter what, I had to get back to become an Olympian again. I watched the 2002 Games from a wheelchair in the stands and vowed to be there with my teammates four years later in Torino. After three years of physical therapy I returned to competition and just one year later qualified to compete at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic Games. Walking into the opening ceremony in Torino with my teammates was the most amazing experience for me and one I will never forget. Goals for next season: Next season is all about consistency. Without a World Championship or Olympic competition in 2012 I have put all my energy into consistency on the World Cup with the intention of bringing home a Grand Prix Globe at the end of the season. Favorite snow destination (why): Deer Valley, Utah. The events we have at Deer Valley each season are the pinnacle of our World Cup tour. Aside from competition, Deer Valley always has incredible snow and terrain and is one of my favorite places to ski. I also love learning about the backcountry and have started ski touring on non-training days in Utah. Favorite non-snow destination: Tofino, BC. I love British Columbia and have had the privilege of traveling to Tofino a number of times. It is a magical place. If you weren't a professional athlete what would you be: Who would want to be anything else? Just kidding, that time will certainly come at some point, and my only requirement is that it be something in which I find the same amount of passion and inspiration as I do as an athlete. Time you've been most scared in your life: The embarrassing truth. I love the outdoors and am always game for adventure, but a few years back as I was being re-introduced to the world of camping I was a bit of a rookie. What can I say, I grew up a city girl? Anyways, during my first time camping in years, a tarp covering our tent filled with water and crashed down on my head as I peacefully slept. I jolted awake, positive that a bear was tearing through the tent to have me for dinner and I completely panicked. Biggest pet peeve: Unreasonably long travel days, which tends to happen on tour often. Advice to others who want to follow in your footsteps: The best advice I have for those looking to follow an athletic path is to find a way to use the opportunities you have been provided to make a difference in the world. I love being an athlete and it has made an incredible difference in my life, but even more importantly it gives me a platform to do some pretty amazing things. One of the things I am most passionate about is finding a way to help provide the chance for people worldwide to experience the joy of sport and recreation like I have. One of the highlights of my career was traveling to Jordan with the organization Right to Play. There I worked with youth leaders to develop sustainable programs designed to teach life lessons to the world's most disadvantaged kids through sport and recreation. These kids, living in refugee camps or having witnessed atrocity as former child soldiers, are now being taught healthy conflict resolution, teamwork, inclusion and confidence through sport. Most importantly they are being exposed to the pure joy of play.