Olympic Hopeful Abby Ringquist on Why She's Standing Up for Young Women
In the months before the Olympics, ski jumper Abby Ringquist is keeping busy with more than just her training, she's also stepped up as an ambassador for the 1,000 Dreams Fund. The organization focuses on providing much needed funding to high school and college aged girls to help them pursue their passions. As the spokeswoman for the #GirlsOnTheRise campaign, she's using her voice to encourage everyone to come out in support of female athletes and young women everywhere. In addition to doing some good, two lucky donors to the campaign will also win all expense paid trips to Park City and VIP tickets to the Olympic Team Trials, where Ringquist and her fellow ski jumpers will be competing, at the Utah Olympic Park on December 30 and 31. We caught up with Ringquist to talk more about her athletic career and why she's wants to give other girls a leg up in the world.
So you just came back from an early competition in Europe, how are you feeling coming into this season?
I'm really exciting coming into it, this is really the climax of my athletic career. It's my 22nd season and I've been competing internationally now for 14 years. The first competitions are always about getting the jitters out, seeing where you and everyone else is at. I'm feeling a bit of nervousness, of course, but overall I'm just super excited.
When and how did you first get into ski jumping?
I'm a born-and-raised-in-Park City girl so I participated in the after school program the school district offers here. My brother is two years older than me so I saw him jumping and really wanted to be like him. I think I was 6 or 7 when I first started jumping.
You're kind of in a unique position in your sport, being part of the first generation of U.S. women ski jumpers. Who did you look up to growing up and where do you draw your inspiration from now?
The Olympics coming here when I was 12 was such a big deal and I really idolized the male ski jumpers competing. I didn't even realize there weren't any women out there at the time. I was very jealous of my older brother because he got to be a test jumper and was up there with all my heroes. At this point in my career, it's really about the people I surround myself with. I spend a lot of time with my teammate Sarah Hendrickson and we feed off each other a lot. We've grown up together in this sport and even after spending four months together 24/7 in Slovenia training, we can still just go out for a walk and have something to talk about.
Aside from your Olympic aspirations, what else are you pursuing?
Currently I'm focused on my athletic training, but during the summer I was taking classes for the arts degree at Westminster College. I'm not sure what discipline I'm going to settle on, but I'm really hoping to work with kids and art in the future.
This year, you've become beneficiary and an ambassador for the 1,000 Dreams campaign. Why did you feel compelled to get involved with them and how is it helping you pursue you dreams?
I think it's been one of those 'right time, right place' kind of things. I met Christie Garton, the CEO, by chance when she was on a tour and I was training. We talked for a few minutes and she really latched onto my story and the struggles we face as female athletes. They hadn't done anything with sports yet, but my story fit perfectly within their mission statement. Christie is such an incredible woman. It takes a lot of guts to come up with money to help other women succeed. Until this summer when U.S. Nordic came into the picture, we were funding our careers on our own, so it's obviously been this huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I can focus on training instead of worrying about how I'm going to pay for the next competition.
How much does the average competition season cost?
Since most of our competitions are in Europe or Japan, it ends up being roughly $20,000. That's for the equipment, housing, flights, vans, food, and all the incidentals that add up so quickly. For other nations competitions are usually within driving distance, but we always have to fly. Last season I was working three jobs, going to school to keep my scholarship, and trying to train for the Olympics all at the same time.
Why aren't there more competitions closer to home? How are you feeling about the upcoming Olympic trials?
Right now there just isn't enough attention on ski jumping for the organizing costs to be worth it here, but we're starting to gain more visibility. We did host the junior world championships and that was a feeler for the future. The Olympic trials are going to get us a lot more attention, too. Almost 10,000 people came out to watch last time and I'm really looking forward to that great atmosphere. It helps give the sport exposure, especially with the Olympic channel broadcast so people outside of the mountain community can actually watch, which doesn't happen regularly.
What do you think you've benefitted from the most by being part of this campaign? And why do you think it's so important to support female athletes?
I think sports are important for everyone to do. It teaches you more than just a game, you learn camaraderie, sportsmanship, how to deal with good times and bad times, and you make lifelong friendships. Statistically, by age 14 around 75 percent of girls give up on sports in large part because of the lack of support and funding. I want the biggest takeaway from my athletic career to be that I helped others. In the end it doesn't matter if I win an Olympic medal or not. But if I can help other girls fulfill their dreams by sharing my story and inspire girls who doubt themselves because there's a missing link and hopefully the 1000 Dreams Fund can fill that missing link.
To donate to the #GirlsOnTheRise campaign, head over to the 1000 Dreams Fund website. - and supporters are welcomed to enter multiple times! VIP passes to the Olympic Trials will be drawn randomly and announced on December 24, 2017. Don't forget to come out to the Olympic trials on December 30 and 31 at the Utah Olympic Park to cheer on all the athletes. General admission is FREE and open to the public.
See Abby Ringquist and a few of the other women part of U.S.'s first women's ski jumping team in this ski wear fashion feature that ran in Park City Magazine's winter/spring 2014 issue.