From Whitman to the Winter Olympics

February 6, 2014

Jasmine Campbell ’15 and Holly Brooks ’04 are set to compete in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Campbell will represent the U.S. Virgin Islands in the slalom and giant slalom, while Brooks will race for the U.S. in the Nordic cross country. Whitman Magazine caught up with the athletes days before the Opening Ceremony. The following interviews are excerpts from two larger profiles that will appear in the March issue of Whitman Magazine.

Jasmine Campbell ’15
U.S. Virgin Islands Ski Team

Jasmine Campbell
Jasmine Campbell ’15

Jasmine Campbell ’15 took a gap year at Whitman in order to train and compete in the Sochi Winter Olympics. Born on the island of St. John, the slalom and giant slalom skier is representing the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Whitman Magazine: What do people say when they find out you’re a skier from the Virgin Islands.

Jasmine Campbell: Generally people say something like, “Oh rad! So that’s like the Jamaican bobsled team, right?” I used to try to correct them and tell them that bobsleds and skiing really have nothing in common, just as the Virgin Islands and Jamaica are entirely different islands, but they seem confused and end up singing the Jamaican bobsled song anyhow.

Whitman Magazine: You grew up on a beach. Where did you learn to ski?

Jasmine Campbell: We moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, when I was 10. My father competed in the 1992 Olympics. He participated in slalom, GS [giant slalom] and Super G. My mother would have gone with him if she had not just given birth to me. However, I recently found out that she raced in a World Cup while pregnant with me, so maybe some of this skiing passion has been instilled in utero.

Jasmine Campbell

Whitman Magazine: You’re competing for a small U.S. territory. What are your Olympic goals?

Jasmine Campbell: All I can hope to do is ski to the very best of my ability. Considering this in Sun Valley, Idaho, I feel confident that my training has equipped me to handle the pressure. However, I’m not deluding myself. Being half a world away at Sochi provides an entirely different landscape ramped up additionally by the awe of attending the Olympics to challenge me mentally and physically. 

Whitman Magazine: So the Olympics are not about winning and losing?

Jasmine Campbell: The Olympics are about bringing the world together in a community of sport and human excellence. It’s a time to transcend differences and divisiveness. I will consider my time at the Olympics a success by doing my own personal best, while connecting with this very special community of athletes. That said, I do have an additional personal performance goal of being one of the top Olympic competitors from the smaller nations.

Holly Brooks ’04
U.S. Ski Team

Holly Brooks
Holly Brooks ’04

You’re the oldest member of the U.S. Ski Team. What do you think you bring to the team that your teammates may not?
I’m the oldest member of the U.S. Ski Team and the member that’s taken the most non-traditional path towards the Olympics, but I wouldn’t change my path for anything. I have no regrets about my late bloomer status. I feel as though I’ve lead a couple different lives: first as a regular college student, then in the work force, and now as a traditional athlete. Many full-time skiers have never experienced life outside of elite sports, and I think my route has given me perspective that allows me to fully understand the beauty of what I get to do every day as a professional ski racer.

You made the Vancouver Winter Olympics team in 2010. How was that experience?
I made the Vancouver team while working as a full-time coach. I worked my way up winning races domestically, then scoring points on the World Cup, being named to the U.S. Ski Team, and finally this year, making the A-team for the U.S. Ski Team. The Olympics are an amazing experience and something that I feel very special to have been a part of. It’s an athletic experience that transcends cultures, borders, (ideally) politics and languages. I feel like it’s the one time where the entire world unites to cheer on representatives from their country.

How was your experience on the Whitman ski team?
I skied on the Whitman Ski Team for four years while in college. I skied and trained with a lot of heart, but I was never very good. Many of my U.S. Ski Team teammates have stories of winning races their entire lives, whereas I loved training, competing and the lifestyle but never broke into the collegiate top 10! Luckily, cross country skiing is a sport where it takes years – even decades – to develop into a world-class athlete, and hence my success in the sport came later in life.

What advice would you give to current Whitman students who might want to move into professional sports after college?
Do what Whitman students do best: balance your passions of academics, athletics and extra-curricular activities. My liberal arts education has really helped me succeed as a professional athlete. I’m faced with promoting myself through public speaking engagements and writing, and the education I received at Whitman has helped me succeed in these arenas. I’m very thankful for my academic background.