For Olympian Patrick Gasienica, ski jumping has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. Coming from a long line of ski jumpers, it was only natural he learned to mount skis before he could lace up his own boots.
Gasienica was born on the South Side of Chicago, but when he was 2, his parents moved the family to Utah where the snow is fresh and the slopes are steep. It was there that he homed in on his true love for the sport. Fast forward to when he was 14, his family moved back to Illinois where his father made sure they were near a ski jump hill—the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove near Barrington. In 2022, after countless competitions, Gasienica found himself in Beijing competing at the 24th edition of the Winter Olympic Games.
We sit down with the Olympian and get an inside look into his ski jumping world.
Q: How long have you been ski jumping?
A: I have been ski jumping ever since I could remember how to walk. If I had to guess, I was 4 years old when I first went down a ski jump and found it to be the thrill of a lifetime. Still do!
Q: What got you interested in ski jumping?
A: In Europe, ski jumping is a huge sport, and with my parents both being from Poland, ski jumping runs in my family. My dad is the one who introduced me to the sport. However, it was my granddad who taught my dad, who then taught my sister, and then finally me. I have other family members, like cousins and uncles, who have also ski jumped.
Q: What goes through your mind as you’re jumping?
A: Not a lot goes through your mind while you’re going down the hill. At takeoff, however, I tend to get hyper- focused, and all other thoughts go out the window besides what I need to do. I get into the flow state on top of muscle memory, so it’s difficult to try to think of anything else other than what you need to do at that takeoff.
Q: Who is your inspiration in the sport?
A: I have always looked up to the Polish legend and former ski jumper Adam Malysz. I remember always wanting to imitate what he did on the hill and trying to be just like him. I actually got the chance to meet him, and it felt like a kid meeting his favorite superhero!
Q: When did you start competing?
A: I started competing as soon as I could go down a ski jump. However, serious competitions started happening when I was around 16 years old, which is when I qualified for the Junior World Championship in Romania.
Q: How did you find yourself at the Olympics?
A: I was able to qualify for the USA Olympic Ski Jumping Team after scoring in an FSI Ski Jumping Continental Cup competition and earning the points to get on the team. I scored points in China, too, a couple of months before we went there for the Olympics.
Q: Tell us about your time in the Olympic Winter Games, Beijing 2022.
A: The Olympics were a crazy time. It was also in the middle of the pandemic. It was tough because while my life dreams were being fulfilled, it was also at the back of my mind that it could all get taken away so quickly.
Q: What about that experience are you most grateful for?
A: I worked very hard and made countless sacrifices to get to the Olympics. It was an honor to represent my country at the highest level and something I will forever cherish and remember. I will forever be grateful to the sport and everyone who helped me get to the point.