Julia Marino: Making the best of a change in plans
As Julia Marino’s plane touched down at Boston’s Logan International Airport, her mind was racing thinking about the opportunity she had to forerun at the Polartec Big Air at Fenway. It would be a bit scary for the 18-year-old climbing up the towering 140-foot scaffold. But she could handle it. After all, it was just a chance for her to try a scaffold jump as a forerunner.
Well, slight change of plans.
Sometimes fate works in mysterious ways. That’s what makes a fairy tale. And Julia Marino was the princess. Little did she know that 24 hours later her carriage would arrive and deliver the biggest win of her young career.
In Wednesday’s training rounds, American star Ty Walker — who won the first FIS World Cup big air for women a year earlier in Istanbul — crashed and suffered a back injury. As a precaution, she would have to sit out the competition Thursday night. Coaches scrambled to fill her starting spot, opting to insert Marino.
A native of Westport, Connecticut, Marino has been considered a rising star in slopestyle, with strong results on the domestic Revolution Tour. Two seasons ago, she surprised with a fourth in slopestyle at the Burton European Open. She had limited experience in big air, but took the Rev Tour win at Mammoth Mountain a year ago.
In qualifications that afternoon, all eyes were focused on Olympic slopestyle champion Jamie Anderson, who just missed making the finals. Then eyes shifted to Marino — the late-entry who qualified second.
Still, there were no heavy expectations on her as she climbed into the elevator for the ride to the start Thursday night. It was nighttime in Boston, the lights of the nearby Prudential Center standing out on the skyline as thousands of fans crowded into Fenway, creating a scene unlike anything the sport had ever seen.
She was nervous at the top — hey, who wouldn’t be?
"With the wind and the steep, icy drop-in, I was feeling a lot of nerves," she said later.
As the announcers called her name and the crowd rose to its feet, she dropped in, stomping a cab 540 underflip about as cleanly as she possibly could. The crowd went wild. Just like that, the forerunner-turned-competitor was in the lead.
"I thought it would make me more nervous but it actually made it way more fun," said Marino. "Every time I landed a trick it was so cool to hear the whole crowd going wild."
So, she went up and did it again — a second run backflip that kept her firmly into the lead. She doubled it up a bit more cleanly on her final jump and, all of a sudden, she was a winner in only her second FIS World Cup.
Now it was time for the TV lights, international interviews and press conference — talk about scary, right? The humble Connecticut teen took it all in stride, beaming with pride.
"I’ve never snowboarded at a contest with a crowd this big — it was amazing!" she said. "There were so many people here — I didn’t think that this many people would show up for a snowboarding event. It’s amazing to see all these awesome fans out here supporting what we do."
Truly, a fairytale evening for a young girl who won on one of her sport’s biggest stages.
Tom Kelly is a veteran of eight Olympics and serves as vice president, Communications, for the Park City-based U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. A Wisconsin native, he and his wife Carole Duh have lived in Park City since 1988 when he’s not traveling the world with the team.
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.