16-year-old superstar athlete Winter Vinecki soaring through the air. Photo: Instagram
At five years old, my athleticism consisted of jungle gyms and playing tag. It was followed by long and powerful naps. Unlike yours truly, Winter Vinecki wasn’t running from boys with cooties. At age 5, she was running 5k races. By the time she was nine, Vinecki created a non-profit Team Winter that fundraises to fight prostate cancer. And two years ago, at age 14, she became the youngest person to complete marathons on all seven continents. P.S.: she placed third in the Antarctica race.
But Vinecki isn’t just a runner; she’s a triathlete, and obstacle course racer and an aerial skier – which is amazing for anyone, but incredibly impressive for someone who has a year left in high school.
Yahoo Beauty: You were the youngest person to finish a marathon on seven continents. What made you decide to train and begin this journey?
Winter Vinecki: That came from right after my dad passed away from prostate cancer. The last month he was alive, I did a long distance triathlon in Florida. People said, “You’re too young. You’re never going to finish.” I ended up finishing that race and proving to people that kids are capable of much more than you think. After my dad passed away, I wanted to do something even bigger and better in honor of him and those affected by prostate cancer. I told my mom, “I want this record for my dad.”
Winter Vinecki competing in the Reebok Spartan Race. Photo: Instagram
You are an all around athlete, and have been competing since a very young age. How did you get into sports?
I got into sports mainly through my mom. She was the big athlete in the family. It was mainly my mom and my uncle. My grandpa has been a ski instructor for over 50 years in Michigan.
What has been your best competition so far?
Probably the best memory for me was finishing the marathon in Peru. That was the longest race. It was nine hours long. It was actually my first female victory win. It was an amazing feeling to cross the finish line, finishing at Machu Picchu. We were running along the sides of the Andes Mountains forever. You didn’t really know which side it was. My GPS ran out of battery, so we were just running along. I was 14. This was 2013.
What is your mindset when you are doing aerialist jumps?
Being mentally prepared is essential to being a good aerial skier. You have to be 110% focused and confident in your training in order to be able to do well. Even though you may have years of physical training, you will never be able to succeed unless you have the mental component. Before every jump, I visualize over and over again how I want the jump to go, everything from my take off, positioning in the air and finally the landing. You have to believe in yourself and not let doubt creep in.
Are you ever scared? If so how do you handle it?
In a sport like aerial skiing, where I am hurling myself 30 feet in the air, there are many times when I get scared, whether it be the first jump of the season or the first time trying a new trick. Its important to not let those fears hold you back though. In order to overcome my fears, I take a deep breath and tell myself that I am ready and have trained for this. Many times when I am getting ready to do a jump but am afraid, I count down to zero and go. The longer I wait, the worse the fear gets sometimes.
Winter is the youngest person to run a marathon on all 7 continents. Photo: Instagram
How do you handle the obstacles that come when you are doing sports? Do you think that mindset has helped you in overcoming obstacles in your life? I believe sports are jut as mental as they are physical, if not more. As a result, it is important to stay mentally strong no matter what. If you are in a race and your body wants to quit, but your mind doesn’t, you will be much more likely to push through the pain. If you give up mentally though, you will not be able to push through, no matter how physically strong and fit you are. Thus, my mantra, “Never Give In!” Life, as a well as sports, always has obstacles. My mom taught me to never give up, never stop believing and always find a way, whether it is with sports or in other life events. She taught me to surround myself with people who believe in me and my goals and dreams.
How many hours each week do you spend training?
On average, I usually train six days a week while I’m in Oregon. When I go to Utah for the summer, I’ll be training up to five hours a day, six days a week. Mainly a lot of running and obstacle course races. I do kettle bells, weightlifting and personal training.
What do you do to protect your skin when you are running and skiing?
One of my favorite lotions is Aveeno face lotion, which has SPF 15. I’ve been using it for the last two years.
Did you go to prom this year?
I go to online school, but I got to go with one of my friends, at her school in Oregon. I had a light blue, floor length gown with an open back. I had my hair in a low up-do. White eye shadow and a light pink lipgloss.
Winter having fun in flight during a ski jump. Photo: Instagram
What are your future athletic and educational goals?
My main goal education-wise is to go to Stanford University. I’m going to apply and hope for the best. Skiing-wise, I have my eye on the 2018 Winter Olympics.
What makes you feel confident?
For me, there are two different ways that I feel confident. One way is looking my best. I think that’s really important for anything, whether you’re doing a presentation or you have a big test coming up. Another is through exercise. Competing in sports has helped my confidence a lot – crossing a finish line or pushing yourself harder than you thought you could. It increases what I think I can do. It gives me more confidence for next time: maybe I’ll be able to accomplish more.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your life and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I have faced in my life was losing my dad when I was 10. Even after six years, the challenge of not having a dad is still there and will probably be there most of my life. So, instead of overcoming this challenge, I have learned to accept it, and face it head on. I realize that it will always be a struggle but I do not let that stop me. Instead, I use it as motivation to keep moving forward, knowing my dad is watching down on me.
How do you like being a professional athlete at such a young age? I love competing in sports at such a high level at 16 years old. It is not only given me self-confidence, but is has also taught me the power of determination when chasing after your dreams, whether they be athletic or otherwise. I’ve truly learned the dedication involved with being a professional athlete. It means sacrificing family time and play time with friends. Being a professional athlete really is a full time job.