WHITEFISH — It seemed fitting that it was a bluebird powder day. Suitable for an Olympic skier’s homecoming.
Hobbled between two crutches after being shut out at the recent Winter Games, a resilient and optimistic Maggie Voisin returned to the open arms of her proud hometown.
Less than 48 hours after the closing ceremony half a world away, Whitefish welcomed its precocious star as only a small town would. Even with short notice, residents huddled together by the hundreds to celebrate the milestone achievement of one of their own. Some hoisted signs with words of praise, others rattled cowbells in celebration. Teenagers filed out the doors of Voisin’s former middle school a block away and joined the crowd that formed along the downtown streets of Central Avenue. Parents left work to grab their kids and bring them to see the 15-year-old freeskiing prodigy.
“It’s really cool: She’s our Olympian,” said April Harrington of Kalispell, who drove her 9-year-old daughter Dresden to the Feb. 24 homecoming event, where the young girl cheered on her idol and waited anxiously for an autograph and chance to meet Voisin.
Decked out in Team USA gloves and a jacket, the Whitefish native arrived atop a fire engine that paraded through the heart of town, past cheering crowds before stopping at Depot Park for a ceremony that embodied the town’s characteristic spirit.
Royal members of Whitefish Winter Carnival, dressed in regal attire, bestowed a unique community honor on Voisin, naming her a royal knight of the throne in front of her parents, Kristin and Truby, and more than 200 people.
“Mighty Maggie, with magnificent Montana-made maneuvers, amazing and merry to the marrow, a masterful marvel, hear our mindful message: you are our great hero of the ice and snow,” declared John Peschel, placing a bright medal around Voisin’s neck.
“There will be more medals for you to win. Right now you’re golden, shining from within.”
The crowd erupted. Voisin revealed a blushed, sheepish smile.
“Your success will be forever woven into the fabric of your family, your friends and the community of Whitefish,” said Mayor John Muhlfeld.
With the white slopes of Big Mountain glowing in the backdrop, she spent almost an hour signing autographs at the center of an energetic crowd.
Earlier that day, she expressed disbelief in everything that had transpired in the past few months — rising from the ski slopes of Big Mountain to the Winter X Games, where she earned a silver medal, and then the Olympics, where she became the youngest member of Team USA in more than 40 years.
Though her dream of competing for a medal crashed after she broke a bone in her leg during practice, she held up her chin in the Olympic spotlight, showing perseverance in global interviews: “I’ll be back. I’m not going anywhere.” Many believe she was poised to become one of the youngest Olympic medalists ever. Even now after the Winter Games, she ranks second in the world standings.
Over the next three months she will heal. She’ll let the calm of the Olympic aftermath settle in. Go back to being just a teenager. But then the snow will fly, and a new season will begin, and with it the next chapter.
Q & A with Maggie Voisin
Before last week’s homecoming ceremonies kicked off, Maggie Voisin spoke with members of the local media, describing her unforgettable season, what it was like to be at the Olympics and what the future has in store.
Q: Welcome home, Maggie. How’s it feel to be back home?
MAGGIE: Thank you. It’s crazy. It doesn’t even feel like I was in Russia, what two days ago? It feels really good to be home. I haven’t been home since Christmas, and it’s nice to just come back and be able to relax.
Q: What were the Winter Olympics like? What were some of your favorite memories from Sochi?
MAGGIE: Obviously I went down with hopes of competing, but outside of that I really enjoyed everything. I think my favorite moment was opening ceremonies, that feeling of just walking out onto the stage with your whole country. It’s an incredible feeling, like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It’s an honorable feeling. And that show was just incredible to watch in person.
Q: After you came to the realization that you weren’t going to be able to compete, you got to soak in the experience, how did it feel to sit back and watch the Games?
MAGGIE: All my friends were done (competing in slopestyle skiing) and we were able to go down to the coast and watch hockey and just experience everything. I got to watch bobsledding and luge, stuff I would never usually watch. It was just an incredible experience. It’s one obviously that will last me forever.
Q: Did it make it easier not competing knowing that in four years you will be 19 and could be in the next Olympics?
MAGGIE: I was ready now. It was definitely something that wasn’t easy to get over but I was super glad I could still be there. And it was incredible that I made it that far. I have such an amazing season to look back on. I never thought to make it as far as I did. Just to think about how far I’ve come, that’s more exciting. Like I said it was disappointing not to be able to compete but I’ll be back. I’m not going anywhere.
Q: Seeing the Olympic slopestyle competition and the girls and the tricks they put together, did you find yourself saying ‘Maybe I could’ve made it up there on the podium?’
MAGGIE: I was skiing very well at the time and I definitely had a run that could’ve been on the podium, but things change and you never know, but it was exciting to be there. The whole freeskiing community is a team in general … We all know each other and are all supportive of each other. I was so excited to be able to support them and they were all there to support me.
Q: Did you get a chance to meet some people that you hadn’t met and that you’d been watching for awhile?
MAGGIE: In the season, I was able to compete against girls that I looked up to and that for me was super exciting, to be able to finally compete against them and get to know them … It was really cool to meet other people from other countries.
Q: Now do you spend the next couple years preparing for next Winter Olympics?
MAGGIE: For us in our sport, it doesn’t really go by four years. Every year we have Dew Tour. We have X Games. Right now I’m not worried about the next Olympics. I’m going to take it day by day, year by year, and just have fun and see where it takes me.
Q: You’re juggling a lot of stuff, like school, training and now healing. How do you do it?
MAGGIE: For me it’s just managing my time … Now that I have so much time off, it will be so easy … I don’t really worry. I get to do what I love. It’s fun to do something you really enjoy and get to do it all the time.