Four athletes at the Winter Games honed their sport on the piste at Bogus Basin, including alpine skier Hailey Duke, competing in her first Olympics. Duke began skiing when she was just a toddler at the age of two. Her parents Larry and Jane Duke were both ski instructors in Sun Valley. Steve Smart, head coach of the Bogus Basin Ski Education Foundation Developmental team coached Duke for the 1997-1998 season.
"I think the thing that stands out most at that age is that Hailey knew she should be on the podium," he said in an e-mail. Smart recalled Duke was a "sponge" and would try "anything you asked her to." He believes that had a lot to do with her parents being ski instructors and with her ongoing practice of Taekwondo.
Duke was 4 when she began to learn the martial art from her father, who owns a Taekwondo studio in Boise. Duke reached the national level with her martial art practice and competed at the 2001 U.S. Team Trials. Larry Duke said Taekwondo's focus is on kicking. That requires a lot of balance, speed, flexibility, strength and mental focus. All skills she needs to compete in slalom.
She still does Taekwondo. "She never switched to skiing," said Larry Duke. "This has been a misconception. She stopped competing in Taekwondo because the competition seasons began to overlap."
Now when he watches his daughter race Duke has one thought, "She's fast!" Hailey Duke's parents will be in Whistler the 21st through the 27th to cheer their daughter on as she competes in women's slalom on Friday, Feb. 26.
While they are proud of their daughter, Larry Duke said he believes "she has only scratched the surface of what she can accomplish." Her former coach Steve Smart only has one bit of advice for the first time Olympian "soak it all in" and to have fun, something Smart said often gets forgotten in competition. "When you get to say 'I am an Olympian' it should bring that Hailey Duke smile out," said Smart.
You can visit Hailey Duke's website at haileyduke.com.