Q&A with McRae Williams
After he narrowly missed out on an Olympic bid in 2014, Park City's McRae Williams has been stepping it up in recent years. Coming off an X Games silver medal and a world championships gold medal last season, he has turned into one of Team USA's most consistent slopestyle skiers.
Earlier this year, we sent Williams a list of questions. Here's what he had to say.
What's your earliest memory of skiing?
My dad signed me up for an aerial recruitment camp at the Utah Olympic Park when I was just 8 or 9 years old, and I remember seeing people doing new-school tricks like corks with grabs and being in awe. That's the day I decided that's what I wanted to do.
What's your earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?
Well, growing up in Park City, Utah, I am fortunate enough to say that my earliest memory of the Olympics was actually being there at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. I was given tickets to the aerial competition at Deer Valley by the great and famous Jeret "Speedy" Peterson and I'll never forget it. I could have never imagined that I would one day have the opportunity to compete in the Games myself. Dreams do come true.
How much time do you spend training each day?
I don't necessarily train, I just have fun, whether it be skiing park or backcountry all day during the winters, or participating in the many wonderful outdoor activities Park City has to offer during the summer, such as mountain biking and rock climbing, which are my two favorites. I do work out two or three times a week for one to two hours at our USSA training facility in Park City called the Center of Excellence.
I don't necessarily train, I just have fun.
How do you work to achieve your daily goals?
Mindfulness. I think positive and tell myself each and every day is going to be a great one. Then I just be like water and go with the flow. I'm also very organized and the opposite of a procrastinator. I like to get work done early and play later.
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
That we freeskiers don't really train, we're just in it for the love of sport and the outdoors, and adrenaline of course. Freeskiing to me is more of a lifestyle than a sport. I just happen to compete in a discipline of skiing (slopestyle) that is an Olympic competition.
Have you ever been seriously injured?
I've never been severely injured to the point where I had to take off an entire season or quit a certain activity or sport. I've had plenty of broken bones and bruises that have kept me off my skis for several weeks to even a couple months, as that is part of the sport and it's inevitable not to get banged up from time to time, but in general I've been pretty fortunate on the injury side of things. One injury in particular that stands out and is worth telling about is when I was just 12 or 13 years old, I was jumping into a pool at the Utah Olympic Park and cut my leg open with my ejected ski when I landed in the pool. I had a gash the size of a large mango on my leg above my knee and had to get 46 stitches. The scar is quite impressive.
Are there are any misconceptions about freeskiing?
People think of Olympic sports as very rigorous and regulated. For example, many of the questions are about training, nutrition, etc. But we are all just normal individuals having a good time. We ski for fun, not for medals and records and whatnot. Sure we have a team, a coach and personal trainers. Sure we're competitors, but really we're all just friends having a good time enjoying the sport we love.
What's your biggest fear when competing?
Just not doing my absolute best when it counts. I know I have the ability to win every time, but it's a matter of putting it down and performing at your highest level when it counts and under pressure. I just believe in myself, and repeatedly tell myself that I'm gonna crush it before each and every competition run I take. Positivity is the key.
Any pre-competition rituals?
I actually don't have any specific pre-comp rituals. I like to get away while waiting to take my run and just pace back and forth while listening to music to keep myself from being distracted. I just tell myself over and over again in my head that I am going to stomp this run and I'm gonna get a huge score.
Are you superstitious?
I used to be, but recently I've realized that everything in this world and this life is mental, so I've decided to block all superstitions out and not believe in them anymore.
Who's your most interesting teammate and why?
Joss Christensen. He's my childhood best friend and we've been in it together from the beginning. But he's a weirdo and he keeps everyday lively and interesting no matter what.
Who's your biggest rival?
Probably Joss again. Because we're both so equal in ability and what we've achieved in this sport. Obviously, as friends we want each other to do well, but at the same time, we're very competitive because we know on any given day we both have what it takes to beat each other.
Favorite perk of being an elite athlete?
Just being a part of such an incredible community of incredible human beings. Also being able to travel the world and experience so many amazing cultures is something I am forever grateful for.
Tell us about your parents.
My mom is 52 years old and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah. She and my dad both grew up in Utah, so I have a lot of family in Salt Lake City. Sadly, my dad passed away to sudden illness when I was just 10 years old, but I owe a lot of my career to him. He was the one that pushed for me to become a skier and take advantage of the popular ski town we lived in and the great ski community that surrounded us. He signed me up for an aerial ski program at the Utah Olympic Park when I was just 8 years old, and from there skiing became everything to me as I made lifelong relationships through the industry at a young age and began a career that I had no idea would lead to great success. Each and every day I put on a pair of skis, I do it in his honor, but that is not to take credit from my mom, who has been there for the long haul and supported me through all the ups and downs. After my father passed, she did everything in her power to keep me in Park City as long as she could, where sure enough my career would thrive. I owe a lot to her and her love and support for me and my career.
When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?
Anything outside. Go for a bike ride, go rock climbing, hiking, hang at the park with friends. Set up a slack line. Maybe go to the pub and watch a game.
What's been the most special place you've traveled to?
Barcelona, Spain. It is my favorite city in the world. Awesome people and culture. Good food. I can speak the language okay. The Mediterranean Sea is right there. And the Pyrenees Mountains are only a couple hours away.
Do you have a personal motto or inspirational quote?
"As you think, so shall you become" - Bruce Lee, and "What goes around comes around."
What's your music of choice while training?
Hip-hop is the most motivating music for me. Favorite artists include 2-Pac, Nas, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang, Gang Starr, Biggie Smalls, Eazy-E, Andre Nickatina, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, etc.
What will success look like for you in PyeongChang?
It will be golden. I'm at the top of my game right now, and not only do I plan to be there in PyeongChang representing my sport and nation, but I plan to bring home another gold medal for Park City!