The Olympic Games are in Laurenne Ross’ blood.
Her grandfather Al Purvis won an Olympic gold medal as part of the Canadian hockey team at the Oslo Games in 1952.
So Ross, a two-time Olympian herself, made a point to watch some Canadian men’s hockey during her time at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. The U.S. alpine skier from Bend attended the bronze medal game and watched Canada defeat the Czech Republic 6-4.
“I feel a connection to Canadian hockey and felt it at that game,” Ross wrote in an email to The Bulletin last week from Switzerland, where she was preparing for a World Cup race.
While Ross herself did not win a medal in South Korea, she came away feeling like a winner. She finished 15th in fields of about 40 skiers in both the super-G and the downhill, but more important for her, she knows she raced to her potential.
“Although I don’t have a medal to show for it, I skied my best,” she said. “A few little mistakes cost me some time, but overall I felt like I skied really well. I crossed the finish line in both races expecting to be faster, but that’s ski racing. Some days you’re just slow and you can’t articulate why. Most importantly, I really enjoyed both of my race runs. I felt smooth and powerful, on edge but in control. I’m proud of my skiing and am proud that I was even able to make it to Pyeongchang after my injury last spring.”
Ross, 29, tore the ACL and meniscus in her right knee nearly a year ago at the U.S. championships in Maine. An offseason of rigorous rehabilitation and physical therapy got her back to racing right before the Olympics.
She was back training on snow by October, and she was racing on the World Cup circuit by early December, just in time to qualify for Pyeongchang.
Ross finished 11th in the downhill at the 2014 Sochi Games and crashed out of the super-G there, but she came into Pyeongchang knowing what to expect in her second Olympic experience. She said she was ready for the pressure, media attention, security, travel and other elements that “threw me off in Sochi.” That helped her relax more, she said, but the pressure and stress levels remained high.
“That’s something you can’t really avoid, but I felt more comfortable with them and tried to utilize the nerves in positive ways,” Ross said in her email.
She attended both the opening and closing ceremonies, and she said that seeing athletes from longtime adversaries North and South Korea walk together as one team was “wonderful.”
Ross also met several particularly interesting athletes. She said she was inspired by the teamwork of the Norwegian athletes, and she also got acquainted with some Olympians from Nigeria who competed in bobsled and skeleton — unlikely sports for athletes from the tropical climate of West Africa.
“So cool to see athletes from countries who don’t really have a winter-sports culture,” Ross said. “In general the camaraderie among athletes at the Games was really refreshing and so joyful to be a part of.”
Ross said her Olympic experience provided a reminder of how sport can connect people from vastly different countries and backgrounds and also give athletes a voice for change.
“It was so inspiring to see the winners of some events speaking up for what they believe in and leaving their mark,” Ross said. “It really made me want to become a better skier so that I can have more of a voice and create more positive change.”
Back racing on the World Cup circuit this past Saturday, Ross finished a distant 45th in a super-G race in Switzerland. The day after that race, she announced on Instagram that she was done for the season, skipping the World Cup finals in Sweden next week and the U.S. championships in Sun Valley, Idaho, later this month.
“I am at once saddened, relieved, and grateful to say that yesterday was the final race of my season,” Ross wrote. “The last 11 months have been an incredibly difficult journey — my knee and my mind both need a break. It was such a challenge to even push out of the start gate yesterday … I didn’t fully realize my level of exhaustion until I got to the bottom. I am so lucky to be healthy and strong, and am looking forward to more challenges on the hill to come. For now, I am stepping back and taking some time for healing.”
In her email to The Bulletin, Ross said she would love to make it to a third Winter Olympics — Beijing in 2022 — but for now she is simply focused on staying healthy and continuing on the World Cup circuit next season.
In 2022, Ross will be 33. That is the current age of U.S. teammate Lindsey Vonn, who became the oldest woman to win an Olympic medal in alpine skiing when she took bronze in the downhill in Pyeongchang.
“I have no idea where I will be in four years, maybe I’ll have moved on from ski racing entirely,” Ross wrote to The Bulletin. “But the energy and inspiration that I took out of the Games in Pyeongchang may help to push me through the next four years, who knows! I will ski for as long as I remain healthy, happy, and passionate.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,