AFH recently had the unique opportunity to catch up with three-time Olympian and AFH member Emily Cook, who placed 8th in the Freestyle Aerials in the Sochi Olympic Games.
AFH: What will you take away from your experience in Sochi?
EC: Sochi was such an amazing experience. I think the biggest thing I will take away is that every athlete came to Sochi with a story. We all face unique challenges and learning from each person what kept them going when things were tough is one of the coolest things about living in the village and interacting with everyone there. It made my own life challenges seem surmountable and I was totally inspired by each person I spoke with.
AFH: What is the best part of being an Olympian?
EC: There are two answers to this question. It is so fun. What an amazing life we live, getting to do what we love everyday. Getting to work towards our goals and learn from so many cool experiences, travel the world and get to know people from different backgrounds and cultures. I absolutely love being an athlete.
My other favorite part of being an Olympian is the platform we get to make a difference. I came home from Sochi and sat in front of my computer with tears in my eyes reading messages from the teachers and kids in schools I interact with through a program called Classroom Champions. Doing flips on skis is fun, but it signifies so much more and gives me an opportunity to teach the kids in our world that they too can reach their dreams. This Classroom Champions program provides me with a consistent a system of communication to teach these kids how to set goals and how to achieve them, and how to have fun while doing so. Who knows what these kids will achieve in their lives!
AFH: Who inspired or encouraged you to become the best in your sport?
EC: My dad taught me how to overcome obstacles and to find passion in life. When I was very young, my mother passed away in a car accident, and my father faced the challenge of raising a little girl on his own. He did such an amazing job, provided me with so many opportunities and encouraged me to pursue whatever it was I loved. That turned out to be freestyle skiing. His perseverance, and unwillingness to let circumstance direct his path taught me how to work hard and to play hard and his foundation of support molded me into the athlete and person I am today.
AFH: What would you say to kids that are interested in your sport?
EC: First, have fun! This is the foundation for success and for living a life you love. Then, pursue your dreams with all your heart. This to me is the best way to be fulfilled in life. If you know you have done your best and put everything into achieving your goals you will be a happy and successful person. Work hard and play hard. Do what you love and love what you do.
AFH: Any other thoughts you would love to share about your experience as an Olympian/or the message you would like to share with others?
EC: Sport is a catalyzing agent. It nurtures development in the best ways possible and it is like a magnifying glass to life outside of sport. It is the perfect way for children and adults even to develop life skills beneficial to success in all areas. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Olympic movement and especially am thankful to have the chance to pass these life lessons on locally through organizations such as Classroom Champions and throughout the world with Right to Play and Kids Play International.
My most memorable and impactful experiences as an athlete have come through participating in programs such as these. Athletes for Hope is an incredible resource to help athletes find areas of contribution that make sense to each individual and to me that is priceless. My life has been so enriched by these opportunities and I would encourage everyone to find an outlet to make a difference around the world.