Woodbury High School junior Elizabeth Wallace was clear when asked why she enjoys ski jumping.
“It’s like flying,” she said.
One thing though: “I’m actually terrified by heights,” Elizabeth said.
The 16-year-old is the reigning Junior Women’s national champion, and has been named to the U.S. women’s ski jumping development team. She hopes to go to the winter Olympics to represent her country in Russia in 2014, when women will compete in the event for the first time.
Elizabeth, whose brother Brian is also an up-and-coming ski jumper, has been skiing since she was 6 years old, and trains with the St. Paul Ski Club.
Despite the danger involved with the sport, Elizabeth said she stays loose as she prepares at the top of the ramp before flying into space.
“I’m more the person at the top of the jump who’s joking around,” she said.
It’s a different story for her mother, Kathy.
“My mom used to hate watching us jump,” Elizabeth said. “Now, she says when she watches us jump, ‘I close my eyes.’”
Though she hasn’t practiced since July following a knee injury (it’s usually 5-6 days a week during winter), she still has her sights set on the World Cup circuit and the Olympics.
“If not 2014, then 2018,” she said.
There’s a fine line between a good jump and a great jump, Elizabeth said. “It’s a really technical sport.”
And it requires a lot of flexibility. However, “I don’t do yoga,” Elizabeth said.
The daredevil nature of the sport contrasts with one of her other interests: baking.
“Cupcakes, cookies, cakes—the fun little things,” said Elizabeth, who is also on the WHS golf team and enjoys math. “I don’t eat any of it. I pack it up and bring it to school and give it to my friends. It’s fun. It smells good. And when people say they like my cooking, it makes me happy."
Despite her own success in the sport, she acknowledged her bother is the better of the two. But the support of her family has been a big part of her journey.
“My parents helped me get to where I am today, and my brother is one of my biggest role models,” Elizabeth said. “He pushes me when I need to be pushed and knocks me down when I need to be knocked down.”