How does someone go from being born on a couch in Chocolate Hole, a sleepy bay on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, to competing in the slalom and giant slalom events in the 2014 Sochi Olympics? Just ask Jasmine Campbell, a Whitman student who is taking a break between her junior and senior years in order to pursue her dream of skiing on the world’s greatest stage.
Campbell lived in the Caribbean until she was 10, when her family changed climates from the warm Virgin Islands, which have an average temperature higher than 80 degrees in the winter, to Sun Valley, Idaho, where the winter months are devoted to skiing. She quickly adopted the local passion, latching on to a sport that advertises speed and thrills as just part of a day’s work. Campbell raced in high school until a back injury forced her to stop. Campbell wouldn’t strap her boots on again until she arrived at Whitman, and it took a little coercion.
Alumna Torey Anderson ’12 was the captain of one of the first club ski teams at Whitman, which was created from the remnants of the former varsity team that was disbanded in 2009. When Campbell came to Whitman in 2010, Anderson talked her into skiing for the club team.
“I just told her that college racing is more fun and she should give it one more go, so that was that,” said Anderson.
From that point forward, Campbell had the Olympics on her mind.
“I remembered how much I loved it and why I got into skiing in the first place â€¦ I remembered how dedicated I was, so then I just started trying to qualify for the Olympics,” said Campbell.
Soon, she began working not just on the mountains, but around the Whitman campus as well, regularly training to improve both her strength and endurance.
“I’ve even seen her go on training runs at 5:30 [or] 6 in the morning,” said senior Patrick Finnegan, who has skied with Campbell since their first year at Whitman.
By her junior year, Campbell’s hard work began to pay off as she began beating many of the male racers in their conference, consistently finishing in the top five of her races. During Regionals last winter, she missed qualifying for Nationals as an individual by just one spot.
This success, however, did not guarantee her a spot in the Olympics. Campbell has spent much of the past six months racing in qualifying events from China to Chile. In the end, Campbell beat out another skier from the Virgin Islands to take the spot in Sochi. After getting the call saying she is going to the Olympics, Campbell relaxed a bit.
“I kind of settled down, and stopped growing gray hairs,” she said.
With her races less than a week away now, Campbell has started to focus less on preparing for her events and more on what will happen once she is in Sochi. Among the concerns for all athletes are security, nerves and snow. These concerns add up to an Olympics with more storylines than a reality television show. Campbell is admittedly carrying some worry about the high number of threats from terrorist groups.
“It adds a different anxiety to racing that I will get to experience,” she said. “It will definitely keep me on my toes.”
As for nerves, those who know her best say that the pressure surrounding the Olympics likely won’t have much effect.
“She’ll do great,” said senior Celine Valentin, Campbell’s first-year roommate. “I’ve never seen her get flustered. I think she thrives on being in that sort of environment.”
With regard to snow, international concerns about the temperature in the Russian resort town have proved unnecessary, and more than enough snow has blanketed the mountains outside of Sochi.
For the games, and for Jasmine Campbell, the next two weeks are all about going full steam ahead. The women’s giant slalom event will take place Tuesday, Feb.18, while the slalom will happen three days later on Feb. 21.
Campbell’s first appearance on television, however, will not be on the slopes. Instead she will carry the flag of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Opening Ceremony, as she is the only athlete from the islands competing in this year’s games.
“It’s an incredible honor,” she said of being the flag bearer. “I really can’t believe it’s been bestowed upon me. I feel extremely grateful.”
From a small, snowless country in the Caribbean to the mountains outside of the busiest town in the world for the next two weeks, Campbell has come a long way. While the end of her journey to the Olympics is quickly approaching, she never forgets her past.
“I just hope I do my countrymen proud,” said Campbell.