Cook hasn’t lost fire for sport

The following is an excerpt from an article published at sltrib.com:

Emily Cook never distanced herself from aerial skiing throughout her 15-year career and does not see herself parting ways with the sport any time soon — although she is taking a break from training until the fall.

Five months after skiing off jumps and twisting into the air at Cypress Mountain en route to an 11th-place finish at the Vancouver Olympic Games, Cook is spending the summer coaching for the FLY program at Utah Olympic Park and taking courses at the University of Utah. One of two aerial skiing Olympic Development Programs in the nation, FLY, or “Freestyle Lives Year Round,” allows athletes ages 7 to 18 to build their proficiency in the sport and provides opportunity to move up into the U.S. Ski Team.

Despite switching from athlete to coach, her enthusiasm for the sport is no different from her earlier years as a young Olympian watching from her nearby Park City house.

“The days I’m not on the pool deck, I’m wondering what’s going on at the pool deck,” she said with a laugh. “When I was injured, I would sit at my window with my binoculars. When they finished prepping the hill, I would come up. It was perfect.”

Cook and fellow FLY coach Tim Preston trained in Lake Placid and remember growing up in the sport with guidance from elite athletes. FLY builds the next generation of athletes and ultimately the next U.S. Olympic team. Cook is especially valuable in that process.

“There’s actually not very many female coaches in aerials right now,” Preston said. “Emily’s a huge asset for the sport.”

After the summer, she resumes training in preparation for the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Championships in February at Deer Valley where she hopes to be on the podium.

Deer Valley hosted the championships in 2003, one year after Cook watched the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in the stands from a wheelchair after breaking both feet in a training crash at Lake Placid. She had secured her spot on the 2002 Olympic team two weeks earlier. Cook hoped to compete in 2003, but her total recovery process took three years.

“I actually remember going up there with my dad thinking I was totally fine and I got to the site and just broke down,” she said.

The tears were temporary, however, and watching her teammates compete gave her newfound determination for her Olympic dream.

“It definitely lit a fire in me,” Cook said. “That’s actually one of the other things I’m most proud of in my career was getting through those three years and coming back strong and having the chance to represent my country at not just one Olympics, but two.”

Cook spent those three years sitting in the judge’s tower of the Olympic Park pool deck at every training session. Not everyone understood how she watched her teammates train without her.

“People were like, ‘How could you do it? Didn’t it break your heart?’ ” Cook said. “No. It would’ve broken my heart to sit at home and think about it.”

The biggest source of inspiration through her injury and entire career has been her father, Don Cook, who gave her skis, boots and a visit to the slopes for Christmas at age 4. Years of enthusiasm and proud moments grew from what began as a shared hobby.

Click here to read the entire article.

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