Sports

Voisin Just Misses Out on Medal

Four years after an injury cut her first Olympics short, Whitefish slopestyle skier makes valiant run at podium before finishing fourth

Three months ago, long before she took center stage at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, before she watched as the bronze slopestyle skiing medal slipped from her grasp in the final round, Maggie Voisin sat next to her mother and grandmother in Montana Coffee Traders in downtown Whitefish and discussed her ultimate goal, which can’t be measured in medals.

“At the end of my career, I could have all these medals,” Maggie said, “but I really want to make sure I left my mark and inspired young skiers.”

That’s a grand, clear-eyed ambition for a 19-year-old girl from Montana, but it was rooted in both the purity of her character and her personal experience. As she says, her U.S. Olympic slopestyle teammate, friend and mentor, Devin Logan, who competed alongside her at the Winter Games, “left her mark on me.”

“And I want to be that for other skiers,” Maggie said.

That goal remains unchanged for Baby Mags, as Devin calls her, who now turns a corner in her skiing career, which began 17 years ago when her parents put her on skis as a 2-year-old at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Baby Mags is becoming an elder in her sport, at 19, and she remains one of its biggest stars even after coming up short of the podium in PyeongChang. Baby Mags, the gregarious teenager from Whitefish who fought her way back from a devastating injury that prematurely ended her first trip to the 2014 Winter Games as the youngest American Olympian in 40 years, has been a professional skier for a quarter of her life. She’s young, but she has wisdom to impart.

What she said in her hometown coffee shop in November is no less true now than it was then, in defeat or victory.

“I put my whole heart into it,” she said of skiing. “It’s my passion. I do it because I love it and I want other people to see that and feed off it.”

FILE – In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, United States Olympic Winter Games slopestyle skier Maggie Voisin poses for a portrait at the 2017 Team USA Media Summit, in Park City, Utah. Voisin has already qualified for her second Olympics. Now, the goal is to compete in her first. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Maggie’s fourth-place finish at the Winter Games was laden with drama. Shortly before noon on Feb. 17 in PyeonChang, South Korea (8 p.m. on Feb. 16 in Montana), fresh off becoming the first American woman to ever win the X Games in slopestyle skiing and a favorite to medal at the Olympics, she was desperately clinging to 12th place in the qualifying round of an event that only sends 12 qualifiers to the finals.

Skier after skier had a chance to bump the 19-year-old phenom out of medal contention for good, but each came up short, leaving one last competitor to end Voisin’s Olympics: Meehyun Lee, an adopted Korean-American skiing on her birth home’s turf. The NBC commentator reiterated, once again, that Voisin was on the verge of a shocking early dismissal.

On the last jump of a solid run, Lee wobbled a bit on her landing and her knees buckled ever so slightly. In the end, that small quiver of the legs was enough to send Voisin on to the finals with a score of 73.0. Lee’s score was 72.80, a mere tremble away from glory.

After the heart-pounding near miss, Voisin had two consecutive strong runs in the final round wiped out by poor landings on the final jump. On her last run, Maggie pulled off a score of 81.20 to jump into the bronze medal position. It would be short-lived, as Great Britain’s Isabel Atkin would pull ahead with a score of 84.60 and secure the bronze.

Most skiers could retire happily with Maggie’s resume. In addition to that pioneering first-place finish at the X Games, she has achieved an array of podium finishes across the world at major events. Yet, Maggie’s only 19, even if she doesn’t talk or act like it.

After ending her first full Olympics so agonizingly close to the podium, Maggie will be back. Serious injuries and public heartbreak haven’t stopped her before, merely slowed her and given her time to develop nuances of her precocious worldview. She will be 23 years old at the next Olympics, if she makes it or cares to make it. That’s four years from now. A lot can happen.

In the meantime, don’t be surprised to bump into her at Whitefish Mountain Resort, signing autographs and teaching young kids to ski, happy, fulfilling her real goal.

If you enjoy stories like this one, please consider joining the Flathead Beacon Editor’s Club. For as little as $5 per month, Editor’s Club members support independent local journalism and earn a pipeline to Beacon journalists. Members also gain access to www.beaconeditorsclub.com, where they will find exclusive content like deep dives into our biggest stories and a behind-the-scenes look at our newsroom.