When freestyle skier Kaya Turski found out she was nominated for a 2012 ESPY Award for Best Female Action Sports Athlete, she wasn’t surrounded by fans and basking in applause. She was in bed.
“I check my Twitter feed every morning,” she said. “I found out because a friend tweeted that she voted for me -- that’s how I found out I was nominated.”
The three-time Winter X Games gold medalist has been called the most dominating force in Slopestyle. She made history when she became the first female skier to land a switch 1080 -- a feat that wasn’t exactly a no-brainer for her, even though what she does on a typical day on the mountain would make some grown men tremble in their rented ski boots.
“It was a crazy feeling,” she says of landing her first 1080. “It had always been a mental block for me for some reason, but landing it made me realize anything is possible.” What’s the next challenge for Turski? “Playing around with more inverts.”
In the meantime, she’s got her ESPY nod to think about (she’s nominated alongside Jamie Anderson, Kelly Clark, and Carissa Moore) and dry-land training this summer and fall in Carlsbad, California.
Turski started off as a “crazy kid,” rollerblading on ramps and always on the lookout for the next adrenaline rush. When rollerblading lost its edge, she headed back to the ski slopes and “flying on big jumps was such a thrill” that she was immediately hooked. In 2006 two separate injuries (an internal injury and a torn ACL) forced her to sit out the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
“They were the hardest two years I’ve had to go through,” she explains. “But I learned a lot about myself and a lot from the support of the people around me. I think I had to go through it to get to where I am now.”
Getting an ESPY nod is a thrill for Turski, who says it’s a “dream come true to be nominated among so many people I look up to.” There’s a strong support system within her sport, but for women it has “always been a little bit of a struggle. It’s a male-dominated sport so we have to prove ourselves to hang with the boys. If anyone isn’t supportive we just don’t pay attention.”
The need for that support system among female athletes is one of the reasons she’s so dedicated to reaching out to her fans and fellow athletes through social media. She started a series of webisodes called “State of Mind” that chronicles her life, her friends and things like her training and her travels. It’s a cool way for outsiders to get an inside glimpse and see what makes a high-performance athlete like Turski click -- skiing and shopping are high on her list.
“Women skiers don’t get the same exposure in ski movies and things," she says. "We’re disconnected, and it’s important to touch base with people who support us. I think the message is have fun with whatever you do and dream big.”
Turski is living proof of that credo. What would she say to other girls out there who maybe watch her on TV and think they could never wind up landing a switch 1080 or getting nominated for an ESPY?
“I would tell them to believe in the power of your mind and the power of putting your heart and soul into things," she says. "People don’t give themselves enough credit. It’s cliché to say anything is possible, but if you don't put heart and soul into it you'll never know what can happen. Belief in yourself can go a long way.”
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- Turski, Eliassen and Brown at Red Bull Trampoline Camp
- Kaya Turski profile page