There’s no life like skiing for Paralympic champion Mollie Jepsen

Canadian Paralympic Committee

May 25, 2018

A conversation with Jepsen reveals a maturity beyond her 18 years and a fierce determination to succeed.

Mollie Jepsen

OTTAWA – Thanks to advances in sports medicine and science, more and more athletes are able to overcome serious injuries or illnesses and produce successful competitive careers.

And perhaps no sport has more legendary names on that list than alpine skiing. For example, American superstar Lindsey Vonn’s lengthy injury record was one of the media’s news focuses leading into the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Which brings us to Paralympic alpine skiing champion Mollie Jepsen of Whistler, B.C.  Jepsen was born with a hand disability and skis with one pole. Through her skiing development she has recovered from three serious leg injuries to become one of the best in the world.

It seems hard to believe a teenager would endure such setbacks, going through the grind of lengthy rehabilitation programs while watching teammates parade to the hill everyday.

However a conversation with Jepsen reveals a maturity beyond her 18 years and a fierce determination to succeed. It’s not surprising she was named the athlete ambassador for the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Paralympian Search in Victoria on Saturday. 

Before her four-medal performance at the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang this past March, Jespen had undergone two knee surgeries and overcome a broken ankle in the past five years.
But Jepsen is one of those athletes that only occasionally emerges on the scene. She displays the same mindset of champions like Lindsey Vonn. That mindset has two main components: a love and singular focus of their sport, and an unquenchable thirst for victory.

‘’I love everything about skiing,’’ said Jepsen. In PyeongChang, she won gold in the super combined, silver in the slalom and bronze in the downhill and giant slalom.

‘’After my injuries I was always like ‘let’s do this again’. Going through rehab it was really important for me to have a goal so I could push myself.”

She tore her first ACL at age 13, during a training run at Whistler, and her second at age 15, at an event in Austria in October 2015. She had surgery in December and was back on snow in September 2016.

‘’The second rehab was very tough,’’ she said. ‘’It was mostly over the winter so I watched everybody going up to ski. Meanwhile I was sitting at home, going to physio, going to the gym. But at the end of the day it was even more motivation to be back on the snow.’’

Jepsen’s hand disability didn’t deter her sporty parents from introducing their daughter to a variety of activities in her early years. As a toddler, she was already skiing as well as horseback riding and doing gymnastics.

She still competes against able-bodied competition determined to shine at all levels. Jepsen won a medal at age 14 at the Whistler Cup, a prestigious international event for junior-aged skiers that attracts racers from around the world.

‘’Since I was young I’ve always had an attitude that I was going to do what everyone else was going to do anyways,’’ she said. ‘’In gym class, the teachers found out quickly I was very active with more skills that most of the other kids.’’

She broke her ankle in February 2017 and was worried her preparation time was insufficient going into the Paralympic Games.

‘’As soon as I arrived at the Athletes Village my attitude changed,’’ she said. ‘’I felt like I was at the right place. I opened with a fourth in the super-G and that just fuelled the fire even more. I didn’t think I could be that aggressive on the courses.’’

Para alpine skiing has brought Jepsen through the peaks and valleys of a career in competitive sport at an age many are just starting to compete at the highest levels.

‘’It’s still a battle every day to put myself in the same position I was when I had those injuries,’’ she said. ‘’But I’m a competitive person. I want to step up my game.’’ 

Note: Jepsen is also an outstanding scholar and was recently accepted at Queen’s University in kinesiology. Her studies are currently on hold.

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