Moment of fate forever changes Parkite Kristi Koplin’s life, hopefully leading her to the 2022 Winter Olympics
It was a moment of fate that completely changed the life of Parkite Kristi Koplin.
A lifelong athlete, Koplin was resigned to the notion that her athletic career was over following the conclusion of the 2010 NCAA West Regionals in the discuss and hammer throw. With that in mind, she was set to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for nursing in July and take the next step forward in her life.
“It was a really weird time in my life because I had just graduated college and then underperformed in my last competition — just having that deep feeling of that’s how my athletic career was going to end,” Koplin said. “I know I didn’t feel done as an athlete but I was set to just focus on work as a nurse in the military. I understand that was the next step in my life. … But then I got that message and everything changed.”
That “message” came in the form of a Facebook message from 2010 Olympic bobsled bronze medalist Elana Meyers Taylor. Meyers, who reached out to Koplin to gauge her interest in the sport of bobsled, is the sole reason why Koplin is standing where she is right now as one of the top ten pilots in the world looking to make the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
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“I was close to making the national team in 2018 but didn’t quite get it done, which is perfectly fine looking back on it now,” Koplin said. “Now to be in this position, with the chance to make the national team and compete at the upcoming Olympics, everything since that email has led me here. It’s really kind of cool to think that I may have the chance to go to the Olympics and win a medal.”
Before talking about her success at this point her career, it must be pointed out that although Koplin received the email, she still needed to act on it. So she attended the combine in Park City and got great feedback from Val Fleming, a silver medalist in the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, who encouraged to keep moving forward with the sport.
Koplin’s next stop was a recruitment camp in Lake Placid, New York, where she officially took on the sport in Oct. 2010 following team selections. Four years later and she was chosen as an alternate breakman for the 2014 Winter Olympics — but another decision she made following those games have set her on a new path.
“I had no clue what I was doing that first time, literally just jumping in and going down a hill really fast,” Koplin said. “It’s been a long journey learning it since that first run. … But then I decided to become a pilot and I couldn’t be happier. This is the position I’m supposed to be doing, and by far the one I’ve felt the most confident in.”
Over the span of the next four years, Koplin has competed on the North American Cup, while gaining the necessary experience needed to make this 2022 run. She’s off to a good start so far this season, having won three races with teammate Jasmine Jones at the Park City NAC three weeks ago.
Despite the wins, the fact that Koplin got to not only perform, but win, in Park City in front of her family and friends meant more.
“I lived in Park City on and off since 2012, and with having family in Lehi, they were able to come out and watch,” Koplin said. “For me it’s special because I get to share my passion with the people that I love the most. … And then to win while having them physically out there with me, it was pretty cool.”
The reason having her family out to watch and support her meant so much was because there was a point last season when Koplin was unsure of what here athletic future held.
A concussion and neck injury forced her to miss most of the season, making the once dynamic athlete was tough to be around because she “wasn’t her best self.”
“No one ever shares the low points with others as much as they do the high points,” Koplin said. “But with my family being so close they got to share, which doesn’t seem like the right word, but share and see me go through that was tough. So for them to get out and see me loving this again and enjoying it, they really understood the struggles I went through and know that they helped me get back to where I was.”
Koplin said twice she attempted to come back from the injury, and twice it didn’t work out because it was too early. What made it worse was that while she would look and act fine, the issue with concussions is that Koplin knew she wasn’t quite right despite what others were seeing on the outside.
So after never having battled something of this magnitude, the once vibrant athlete was left in a “fog” for most of the time, never knowing when it would end, or if it would.
“It’s funny because I’m usually a very happy and jovial person, but I struggled because I wasn’t my best self,” Koplin said. “The hard part is that I was trying to understand why I was like this, yet no one could tell that I wasn’t myself. It was a depression of sort and made it really difficult to move on. … But once I did, I can say I’ve never been more grateful.”
Now with the injury behind her, and fate stepping in nearly a decade prior, Koplin understands what she’s competing and fighting for every day out on the track and in the gym.
“Sometimes I think about winning a gold medal, and I would probably cry first of all if that were to happen,” Koplin said. “But just knowing everything I been through to the get to that point, I understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. Even just talking about it makes my heart feel full.”
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.