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Zen And The Art Of Snowboarding: Jamie Anderson Goes To Sochi

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Zen And The Art Of Snowboarding: Jamie Anderson Goes To Sochi

Sports

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In the lead-up to the Winter Olympics, we're bringing you a series called The Edge, looking at what athletes are doing to give themselves the upper hand. Today, we learn about Jamie Anderson. She's considered one of the top female snowboarders in the world, and she's recently secured a spot on the first-ever U.S. Olympic team doing the extreme sport of slopestyle.

Will Stone, of Reno Public Radio, has this profile of the athlete and the sport she's mastered.

WILL STONE, BYLINE: The first time Jamie Anderson performed a cab 7, it was not in the script.

JAMIE ANDERSON: I didn't have to do that trick. But I really wanted to, and I knew could do it.

STONE: The trick involves a snowboarder launching off a jump and spinning two full rotations. Anderson had tried it in practice but never fully executed it.

JAMIE ANDERSON: For me, it was more about the principle of knowing that I can do something even that was really challenging and difficult.

STONE: That was the 2007 X Games. Now, she calls the cab 7 one of her favorite moves and does it often, along with other high-flying stunts, like in last year's X Games, broadcast on ESPN.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED ESPN BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Coming into the down pavement with a big old cab 7 there into the money booter, switch backside 5 for Jamie. Wow.

(SOUNDBITE OF HONKING GEESE)

JAMIE ANDERSON: (Laughter) Hey, settle down.

STONE: On the dock outside her home in Lake Tahoe, Calif., the 23-year-old catches the end of a pink sunset.

JAMIE ANDERSON: Often, I'll come out on my little medicine walks in the morning and see the bald eagle - which is always just amazing.

STONE: Anderson has stayed close to the Sierra, where she got her start at age 9, after receiving a hand-me-down snowboard. Her family couldn't afford to buy a new one. She and her seven siblings were home-schooled.

JAMIE ANDERSON: So I had a lot of time on the mountain. It was like my day care. (Laughter)

STONE: Off the slopes, Anderson has a Zen-like calm. It's surprising, given the intensity she brings to her sport. At age 13, she qualified for the Winter X Games. Two years later, she won a bronze, and was the youngest ever to medal there. Now, she's taken gold in the X Games four times.

JAMIE ANDERSON: Ultimately, it kind of reminds me of like, a playground on the mountain. There's different features - like rails and boxes and jumps, sometimes hips and quarter pipes; all kinds of random features.

STONE: But Anderson is not just a risk-taker. She likes to crochet, and one of her trademarks is hugging a tree before a big run - or that's how it looks on camera. The first time she did it, she was actually meditating to clear her mind, while wrapping her arms around a tree. She tries to bring that sensibility to her sport.

JAMIE ANDERSON: So when I get to a competition and feel out the slopestyle course, and kind of see which directions the jumps are flowing and which way I feel like I could do my tricks - maybe having an idea in my head but being open to changes, and kind of seeing what flows most effortlessly.

STONE: Jamie's older sister, Joanie, is also a professional snowboarder. She says Jamie's style is authoritative.

JOANIE ANDERSON: She goes a lot bigger than a lot of the girls out there. And she's super smooth. She has a way of always landing on her feet - she's kind of like a cat. (Laughter)

STONE: The point was driven home in a recent episode of a National Geographic show, when Anderson propelled herself off a jump and traveled 65 feet over a roadway. Now she has hopes of executing a new trick, one that involves spinning 900 degrees.

JAMIE ANDERSON: Sometimes I'll even have a dream of the trick I want to do, and I'll land it perfectly. And I'm like, OK, I'm ready. I want to do this trick. But it takes so much courage.

STONE: Whatever trick she pulls off, Anderson will continue pushing this growing sport to the limit - including, for the first time, all the way to the Olympics.

For NPR News, I'm Will Stone in South Tahoe.

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