Talented, close-knit Macuga siblings set bar high for each other
All 3 Macuga sisters compete on their respective sports' national teams
On a warm, sunny summer evening in Park City, the Macuga family gathers around the dinner table. Laid out are a wide range of ingredients for spring rolls: rice paper, carrots, mangoes, peanut sauce, shrimp, tofu and plenty more. There’s a mad scramble to fill everyone’s rolls with fixings before they get too sticky, with plates and saucers constantly being passed from one side of the table to the other.
While there’s some playful teasing between Dan and Amy Macuga’s four children, the conversation eventually moves on to what everyone did during the day. Daniel Macuga, the youngest of the four, was busy with his schoolwork with the Winter Sports School. Sisters Sam, Lauren and Alli Macuga had their hands full with their training. Just another average day for the Macugas.
While the scene may be that of an average family on an average summer day, the Macugas are far from average. The three sisters have all made the national team for their respective sports. Sam Macuga is a ski jumper, Lauren Macuga is an alpine skier and Alli Macuga competes in moguls. Daniel Macuga is hoping to join his three sisters and make the U.S. team as an alpine skier in the future as well.
The Macuga family spent a few years moving around at first for Dan Macuga’s job, to the point where every child was born in a different city. Park City became the family’s permanent home when Sam Macuga entered first grade. Having a family of elite athletes wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but nobody will complain.
The four siblings are as close as they can be and just as competitive. Each one having his or her own sport serves as both a way to establish a unique identity as well as preventing relationships from being too fierce.
“Like, ‘Mario Kart’ or video games or whatever, we can be competitive and rag on each other, and it’s all good fun,” Sam Macuga said. “And then we can go do our actual things. Ski jumping’s my life, and they’re all going to come support me. And then they’ll go ski race, and I’ll support them, and it’s fun to be fully in.”
Alli Macuga is the youngest of the three sisters, and she made some noise for herself this past season when she brought home three medals from the junior world championships. She finished third in moguls and dual moguls and teamed up with fellow Park City skier Jackson Crockett to collect a gold medal in the team dual moguls event.
“It was insane,” she said. “I made so many friends that I still have. Swedish girls, some Kazakhstan girls. To be able talk with all of them at the top of the course and meet these new people, it felt like World Cup level. And I never felt that before, and it was a really cool experience.”
Alli Macuga’s goal for this upcoming season is to qualify for her first World Cup event. She finished fourth in the overall moguls standings on the Nor-Am Cup tour this past season and will continue to ski for the U.S. D Team this year.
Lauren Macuga, the middle sister, became the first member of the family to compete in a World Cup event last December. On short notice, her parents began a frenetic trip to Canada to watch her. After taking rapid COVID-19 tests and booking a flight and a rental car, they made it in time to watch her compete.
“You want to just cry, it’s just the coolest thing,” Amy Macuga said. “She was on cloud nine. When they ski well or something like that happens, you can just tell, their energy. You can tell without looking at the results how they skied.”
Lauren Macuga finished 49th in her first two World Cup starts. But making a World Cup start was a big deal, and it gave her valuable experience heading into the upcoming season.
“That whole race, it didn’t feel like it was happening until I was in the start gate,” she said. “The training runs, they didn’t even feel like it was a race. I was just like, ‘This is so crazy.’ And then I came down after my first real run, I was like, ‘I just started a World Cup. This is the coolest thing ever.’”
While she didn’t come home with the same amount of hardware as her younger sister, Lauren Macuga also had her moment in the spotlight at junior worlds this year. She ended up winning a bronze medal in downhill, her favorite event.
“No words, it was the coolest thing ever,” she said. “I don’t know, never expected that to happen. And here we are.”
Her standout performances from last season helped her move up from the development team to being nominated for the B Team for this coming season.
Sam Macuga has been finding a balance between furthering her ski jumping career and pursuing a degree in electrical engineering from Dartmouth. But summer is for focusing on ski jumping, and she’s seen plenty of improvement so far.
“It’s actually exciting because we’re teaming up with Norway,” she said. “They reached out to us and offered us new training programs and just advice, and they’re going to help coach us. Basically, our whole approach to ski jumping has changed. … We’re only a month into the summer training program, and things are just way better.”
She also called herself the “test drive” as the oldest of the four Macuga kids. Being the first to do everything is challenging, but it has its upsides as well.
“I went to all the schools first, and I was the first one to make the national team, and I was the first one to actually commit to my sport,” she said. “There is the eldest child thing, you kind of get fit into this mold where you take care of the rest of them. But it’s kind of fun figuring things out and watching them figure it out, too, or helping them along.”
Daniel Macuga takes after his sisters in a couple of ways. First, he wants to go to Dartmouth like his oldest sister and ski for the Big Green. Second, he’s an alpine skier like Lauren Macuga. Both live to just go fast.
“I’d say we have the same type of technique – trying to go fast – and just having the same mindset for when we get on the hill,” he said. “I think we have the same idea of how we want to do that day and what we want to accomplish.”
As the only one who isn’t on a national team, he receives the occasional ribbing alongside the typical youngest sibling treatment, like never getting to drive or sit shotgun. At 16, he has plenty of time to catch up to his sisters.
The Macugas are always pushing each other, whether it’s skiing or trying to figure out if three of them can ride on a one-person wakesurf board. Once, they found a pair of battered skis and had the idea to try to ski on the road by attaching a dog leash to the back of a car.
“We’re so close, and, yeah, the competitiveness can get a little gruesome sometimes,” Alli Macuga said. “But it makes it fun. We love to play games together. We’ll be out on the boat, and it’s like, ‘Who can do this? Who can do that?’ And it’s fun. We push each other.”
To hear their parents talk about them, it’s always been that way.
“They’ll go skiing through the trees, and they’ll just follow each other,” Dan Macuga said. “They’re best friends, they just follow each other wherever they go. They’ll jump off the jumps and see who can have the best wreck.”
“When someone falls, everyone’s like, ‘Do you have video?’” Amy Macuga added. “There’s some pretty spectacular wipeouts.”
Each athlete in the family has his or her own dreams, goals and aspirations. But the dream they all share is they want all four of them to compete in the Olympics together. The 2030 Winter Olympics potentially being held in their backyard would make it even sweeter.
“That’s the coolest thing,” Lauren Macuga said. “We’d have all four siblings in four different sports basically, between men and women racing. That’s be really cool, and we’d all get to go together. And hopefully Salt Lake gets the Olympics, and we’d be at home. It’s a big reach, but I think we’re on the right track.”
“Especially growing up in this town, I’ve trained alongside Olympians my entire career,” Sam Macuga added. “I’ve been coached by an Olympian the past five years. It’s crazy to talk about because that’s wild for most people. But skiing’s what we do. When you grow up in it, it’s not something that’s crazy anymore.”
Time will only tell what lies ahead for the Macugas. But perhaps there’s a chance that someday they’ll be sharing dinner and playfully teasing each other from the comfort of an Olympic village.
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