The 2022 Winter Olympics will feature plenty of big names, but perhaps none are more fitting than American aerials skier Winter Vinecki.
The 22-year-old Michigan native is no stranger to the world stage.
Vinecki spent the majority of her childhood racing in marathons across the globe where she developed into a record-breaking long distance runner who went on to raise more than $500,000 towards prostate cancer research and awareness.
Now, Vinecki is ready to reach new heights as she attempts gravity-defying tricks in her quest to reach an Olympic podium.
How did Winter Vinecki get her name?
Winter Vinecki is looking to become the first Olympian with the first name Winter to compete in an Olympics.
Her parents picked the name out before she was even born. Winter’s mother, Dawn, wanted the gender of her child to be a surprise. So Dawn and Winter’s father, Michael, decided on Winter for a girl and Yukon for a boy.
“There’s a lot of Autumns and Springs and Summers for girls’ names. And I said, ‘What about Winter? Nobody names their child Winter and she’s due December 18,’” Dawn said on NBC LX’s My New Favorite Olympian podcast.
When did Winter Vinecki first start skiing?
Vinecki’s interest in aerials skiing first piqued when two-time Olympian Emily Cook invited her to a week-long aerials skiing camp in Park City, Utah.
“I had no idea what aerials skiing was before I started trying it,” Vinecki told NBC LX. “Emily Cook came up to me and she was like, ‘You’re pretty tiny to be a ski racer. Why don’t you come try my sport?’”
Vinecki fell in love with the sport so much that she promptly moved to Park City to train with Cook.
She was 12 years old and felt a bit like a fish out of water despite her previous athletic accomplishments.
“I’d barely done backflips on a trampoline or anything like that, so I had no acrobatic experience,” Vinecki said. “I knew how to ski, but I didn’t know how to flip.”
When did Winter Vinecki join Team USA?
Vinecki trained for the next three years and was named to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team in 2016.
She joined the same national development program that gold medalists Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety had used in their training on their way to the Olympic podium.
Did Winter Vinecki compete in PyeongChang?
Vinecki had planned to qualify for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics but suffered an injury in the summer of 2017.
Has Winter Vinecki won a gold medal?
Despite missing out on the 2018 Winter Olympics, Vinecki remained determined to accomplish her goals and reached her first podium in an aerials skiing World Cup event on Jan. 23, 2021.
Vinecki took home a gold medal at the Moscow World Cup and then followed it up with a third-place finish at the Raubichi World Cup in Belarus a week later.
She also had a second-place finish at the Deer Valley World Cup in Utah.
What are some of Winter Vinecki’s goals in Beijing?
Vinecki’s dream of becoming an Olympian was for more than just herself.
After her father was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Vinecki started her own nonprofit organization, Team Winter, at 9 years old to raise money for prostate cancer research.
She teamed up with the Prostate Cancer Foundation and donated trophies she won from competing in marathons and triathlons to patients, raising over $100,000 in the first year alone.
Vinecki continues to honor her father, who died on March 12, 2009, with every event she competes in.
“Her dream to get to the Olympics and to stand on an Olympic podium is for her dad and the men affected by prostate cancer and their families,” Dawn Estelle said. “It’s never about her. It’s about saving lives and helping families.”
How much money has Winter Vinecki raised?
Vinecki has raised $500,000 with Team Winter and hopes to make an impact on others when she competes for the USA in February.
“I’ve always wanted to become an Olympian and compete for [Team] USA on the biggest stage in the world,” Vinecki said.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be in ski racing, in triathlons, running, whatever it may be, but I knew I wanted to be out there and to compete my heart out, to do the best that I possibly could in something, and to be able to use my platform as an athlete to help others.”
Inspiring others is something Vinecki has done all of her life, and she will look to accomplish her goal of reaching an Olympic podium in February 2022.
Want to listen to more NBC LX podcasts? Visit the My New Favorite Olympian page to discover more about the top athletes as they get ready for the 2022 Winter Olympics.