With Slopestyle in the Olympics, Utah native eyeing the podium
When the International Olympic Committee's Executive Board approved the addition of Ski Slopestyle to the Winter Olympics, it was a cause for celebration in Utah, where the world's best winter athletes prepare and train.
For Park City's McRae Williams, it was simply extra motivation.
The 22-year old Salt Lake Community College student has been on a tear ever since the announcement, standing on the tallest spot on the podium at the Winter X-Games Europe in Tignes, France, back in March.
"I'm still on cloud nine it was a surreal experience," Williams said. "The second- and third-place competitors were skiers I've skied with since I was 15, so it was cool to be there with them, too."
Now, with a year before the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Williams has set himself up to add another title to his resume Olympic medalist.
It wasn't that long ago, on the Park City slopes, that Williams took up the sport, the goal of which is to pull of the best tricks while attaining the highest altitude possible on jumps.
His family was active. His father, Steven, and his mother, Jan, were both avid skiers. Jan was a stay-at-home mom, providing McRae Williams the freedom to ski often and build ramps with his friends at Guardman's Pass.
According to Jan, what started her son's climb in slopestyle skiing was first learning how to fall.
"When he was 8, he started jumping up at the Winter Sports Park into the water," Jan said. "It taught him how to drop, how to move his body in the air and focus on where he was going to land."
Williams also was involved in gymnastics at a young age, participating in trampoline competitions. It laid the foundation for William's ability to land the coveted triple, a jump that few skiers in the world have accomplished.
In Christmas 2001, Steven Williams was diagnosed with a hereditary kidney disease. He died four months later. McRae Williams found solace in the slopes.
"After his dad passed away, McRae really took off," Jan Williams said. "He started winning, getting sponsored, and it just kind of snowballed from there."
According to the Association of Freeskiing Professionals rankings, McRae Williams is currently sixth in the world in slopestyle and fourth in the United States. He feels that if he continues to compete at a high level, he should have the opportunity to make the National Team and, with it, a full-ride scholarship to Westminster College.
"I've always thought I'd want to major in something along the business side of things," McRae Williams said. "My dad was a good businessman, and I feel like, with that, I can stay in the ski industry."
Before that time comes, though, McRae Williams will focus on Sochi, a goal that Jan Williams has no doubt her son will attain.
"I know he'll make it because he does everything he puts his mind to," Jan Williams said. "He's a wonderful human being, and I'm so proud of who he's become."
At a glance
Slopestyle is a technically challenging discipline, featuring jumps, rails, and features to challenge and intimidate even the best skiers in the world.
McRae Williams is one of few to perfect the triple, a switch triple rodeo 1260 that was first accomplished by freeskier Sammy Carlson.
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will be celebrated Feb. 7-23, 2014.