Julia Marino has quickly become one of the biggest names in snowboarding.
And she didn’t really expect it.
The Connecticut native, who captured gold at the 2017 X Games, has seen her star skyrocket over the last few years and, now, in her Olympic debut at PyeongChang, Marino has her sights set on another medal. She’s also got a big-time cheering section. Marino’s parents and family have been with her every step of the way, cheering and gasping for every trick in equal measure and the same holds true at the Games. Here’s everything you need to know about them:
1. Marino’s Parents Traveled to PyeongChang to See Her Compete
They weren’t ever going to miss this.
Marino’s parents – Elaine and John – were part of a large family contingent that traveled to PyeongChang to see Julia’s Olympic debut. And, of course, the parents were practically bursting with pride as soon as they set foot in South Korea.
Elaine told the Westport News:
She took it all in stride. She was excited about (the Olympics). She doesn’t get phased by a lot. That’s a good thing. We’re extremely proud. It’s indescribable. We’ve seen Julia grow as a person and raise in the ranks, but she’s still our daughter. She’s very grounded and down-to-earth. We’ve always been mom and dad. She’s been able to stay normal. She’s just a kid from Westport.
Although both Elaine and John are veterans at watching their daughter compete, it wasn’t always easy – particularly at the Olympic level. “She said before the event, ‘I didn’t come all this way to take a safety run,’ ” John told The Washington Post.
2. She Learned to Ski & Snowboard on Vacation
Believe it or not, the Westport, Connecticut native didn’t always consider snowboarding her best sport. Marino first started skiing when she was just three years old and first tried snowboarding when she was nine while on her family’s annual vacation to Beaver Creek, Colorado.
She didn’t like it.
In fact, Marino hated snowboarding.
That all changed, though, when she was 12 years old, back in Colorado, and found herself “stuck” in the woods after breaking her skis. She did, however, have her snowboard and the rest, as they say, is history. “[I] started feeling a greater connection with it,” Marino told NBC Olympics. “By 13, I really started to get into it. I love the freedom, creativity and athleticism of it, and that I can usually do it in a beautiful setting.”
Marino had always been athletic, but it wasn’t until she was 15 that she decided she was going to turn her attention, full-time, to snowboarding. She’d been riding on the East Coast, mostly, and the chance to test out her skills against some of the more advanced courses in Colorado sparked a drive she still has. Marino joined the U.S. team the very next year.
3. Marino Says Her Parents Are Her Biggest Influence
Marino described her relationship with her parents, telling NBC Olympics:
They showed me endless support and confidence in me through my entire life and that’s something I’ve always appreciated. Getting into this kind of career wasn’t easy either. It was expensive, and required a lot of traveling and being away from home at a young age. But they knew it was my dream and they were fully committed in every way to helping me achieve that dream.
There were, naturally, sacrifices, but Marino’s success over the last few years has made it all worth it. The 20-year-old brought home a gold medal in slopestyle at the 2017 X Games and is a two-time X Games big air medalist, capturing a silver and bronze in the event. She also wrapped up the 2016-17 snowboard tour ranked No. 2 in the slopestyle standings.
Marino also boasts an arsenal of impressive tricks, including her cab double underflip. She was one of the first female riders to bring the trick to slopestyle and the move has set her apart from the pack, shining that spotlight even brighter than usual.
4. Her Parents Still Worry Every Time She Competes
It hasn’t gotten any easier.
At least not for Marino’s parents.
Marino has competed in both slopestyle and big air throughout her a career and while she’s found success in each event, her parents still admit to be a little cautious when she’s, quite literally, flying through the air. After all, even glancing at the logistics of big air competition can be daunting – a 160-foot ramp with athletes launching themselves off a hill angled at 40 degrees.
Elaine Marino told the Hartford Courant: “I know it’s a risky sport. I remember at USA Nationals watching her compete. We went from the East Coast where everything is smaller. But then we get out there, and there’s all these huge features. She went flying over the first jump, and I remember my knees actually got weak. A man next to me grabbed me and said, ‘Are you okay?'”
It’s been a bit of a ride for the Marinos over the last few years, particularly when PyeongChang seemed like a distant possibility instead of an absolute certainty. Still, despite the nerves and, maybe, a few gasps, the family will be there to cheer on Marino no matter where she competes.
5. Marino Considers the Rest of Team USA Part of the Family
Marino spends most of her time competing now and while it’s sometimes difficult to be away from home for long stretches at a time, the snowboarding star has found a bit of family on the road as well. She considers herself incredibly close with her fellow Team USA athletes and has seen her own talent grow by watching her competition.
Jamie Anderson, who won gold in the slopestyle at PyeongChang, told The Hartford Courant:
Julia is absolutely amazing…I really like her. She reminds me a lot of my younger self. She’s a really free spirit, loves to be outside, walks around bare-foot. And she’s only getting better. It’s so fun to watch her compete. She’s so strong mentally and physically. I think she’s going to be a huge name in women’s snowboarding for years to come.
Marino admitted that when she first started competing “against the top women in the world, I used to get really nervous,” but as she continued to develop relationships and gain experience, those nerves have evolved into something completely different – respect. She added that she and her fellow competitors are a “close knit bunch and really care about each other” and even when they’re facing off, they’re still cheering for each other.