Roz Groenewoud fell in love with freeskiing as she watched the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics while living in Quito, Ecuador—a country not exactly known for snowy slopes. After living there for four years from age 8 to 12, Groenewoud and her family relocated back to Calgary, Alberta, in Canada. There, her parents enrolled her in a recreational freestyle ski program where Groenewoud relearned how to ski—and began to chase her dream.
Groenewoud, now 24 and usually known as Roz G, soon progressed from regional events to provincial events across Canada, and eventually international competitions. Even as she racked up medals, Groenewoud didn’t realize she was on the cusp of becoming a pro athlete until her senior year of high school. "I was up on the podiums competing with the best skiers in the world, and I was like, 'Oh, look, I can actually do this,'" she recalls. She deferred from university to take the next year off and began earning her living as a professional skier.
The game-changing moment in Groenewoud’s career came when she won gold in the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships. "It was the last event before the IOC [International Olympic Committee] would decide whether or not to include the ski halfpipe in the 2014 Winter Olympics, so there was a lot of pressure on us to perform," says Groenewoud. "Even though we competed in a blizzard, it was one of the moments where I was able to succeed through adversity." Her efforts paid off: The ski halfpipe and slopestyle will make their Olympic debut in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Groenewoud's remarkable ability to perform during hardship was proven again at the 2012 X Games in Aspen—which took place only one week after her teammate and close friend, Sarah Burke, passed away from injuries sustained in a skiing accident. Groenewoud ended up placing first, and set the highest score in women’s ski superpipe history (93.66). "I found strength within myself, and I'm really proud of that," she recalls. "Sarah was such a huge motivation for me, and I realized the best way to honor her legacy was to push myself even harder, rather than step back and let fear overtake me."
Other notable achievements include a first-place win in the 2012 X Games in Tignes. Groenewoud also won the AFP Halfpipe Overall in 2012 and most recently, in 2013, during the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup, she finished second at the stop in Sochi that’s considered the last test event at the location before the Olympics—a good omen for things to come when she’s back in Russia in February.
In Sochi, Groenewoud says her goal is to perform her best. "I've always dreamt about the Olympics growing up so I’m interested to see how it all turns out," she says. "I’ve talked to other athletes who have told me that the best feeling is to be at the top of your course and to know that you’ve done absolutely everything possible—physically, mentally, emotionally, technically—to be the most prepared you could be. So I’m looking forward to knowing that I've left no rock unturned in my preparation."
Her training seems to be right on track to achieve this goal. In the gym, Groenewoud does a mixture of heavy weight lifting at low reps and traditional moves like squats, deadlifts, cleans. She also does explosive power workouts, which consist of circuits of skipping, sprinting, balancing, and stability work. "Obviously the focus is on lower body and core for performance, but it’s important that you upper body is strong enough to take a hit if you crash," she explains.
Some more surprising workouts she enjoys include trampoline jumping, mountain biking, and dancing, which is one of her favorite ways to relax. "My teammates and I love learning choreographed dances," she says. "One of my teammates and I learned the entire dance to 'Single Ladies!'" If she can manage to channel Sasha Fierce in a one-shouldered leotard, we say there’s a good chance Groenewoud has Olympic gold at her fingertips. —Locke Hughes