Years Of Hard Work, A Lucky Break, And On His Way To The Olympics

Madison's Mac Bohonnon is on his way to the Winter Olympics. He plans to compete hard and win. And he has some longer term goals as well, that include helping others the way others have helped him.

Mac Bohonnon. Photo credit: macbohonnon.com
Mac Bohonnon. Photo credit: macbohonnon.com
Going into Tuesday afternoon, Mac Bohonnon was thinking about what a wild week it had been. 

Just a week earlier, a spot opened up unexpectedly at the Val St. Come World Cup in Quebec. Mac, a world-class freestyle aerial skier, booked his flight only several hours before the competition and was on his way. Before he knew it, he was in the air, three flips with four twists. He nailed the landing.

His consistent performance that Tuesday in the competition earned him a spot on the podium and a career best second-place finish, making him the first American man to score a top three World Cup aerials finish this season.  On Saturday night, he finished 13th in the men's aerial competition at Lake Placid, NY. On Sunday, Bohonnon was named International Ski Federation (FIS) Freestyle Rookie of the Year.

Hanging out, waiting to hear

Mac knew he had a shot at a spot on the Olympic freestyle team, but now on Tuesday night he was waiting to hear from his coach, who would let him know one way or the other. Mac tried to focus on his homework for his AP Lit class, a research paper on Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls."

"I didn't have any huge expectations and just waited for the phone call. Just kind of hung out," he said. 

Finally the phone rang. And it was good news. 

The underdog

"It was surreal," Mac said. Bohonnon, 18, will represent the U.S. in Men's Aerials, along with reigning Olympic Champion Hannah Kearney and 2010 Olympians Patrick Deneen, Heather McPhie, Emily Cook and Ashley Caldwell.

Mac on Tuesday night still sounded a bit amazed, and grateful, that he had a shot at the podium a week earlier. "I didn't initially have a start. I wasn't supposed to go. Somebody gave up their spot. I booked my flight six hours before. I wasn't even supposed to be there. I was really excited to be there. It was my first big international World Cup that I ever competed in. And I was able to jump really well."

Mac said it helped that he was a bit of an underdog, being the youngest guy on tour. "It was a big shock, not just to myself but to everyone. It was just so much fun for me. It all came on so quickly," he said. The other men on the podium with him were 10 or more years older than Mac.

Managing the pressure and stress

Competing against older, more seasoned athletes. Managing his expectations. Training eight or more hours a day while also finishing high school.

Mac admits that, while it's fun, it can also come with a great deal of pressure and stress. He's grateful to his family, friends, teammates, coaches, sports psychologists, and others who have helped him manage that pressure and stress. 

His plan is to go to the Olympics and win. He said he is thrilled to be representing his hometown of Madison, the state of Connecticut, and his country.

"I was just so fortunate" 

His long-term goal? 

To help other young athletes, and their families, deal with the pressures and stresses of competition.

"I got into this at a young age and was fortunate enough to have really incredible support from my family and friends and older athletes I lived with, athletes who had done their time," he said. "That helped me develop at a young age, how to understand the stresses of competition, and how to deal with and mitigate that. I was just so fortunate."

"I want to help them be even better ... " 

Over the years, Mac said, "I have seen so man talented athletes, much more talented than me, have a hard time with it." 

"Between the different stresses of sports and training, being away from family, balancing school and what not, it can be hard. It just kind of gave me this inspiration to do whatever I can do to support younger athletes coming up, and sharing my experiences with them."

"I want to help them be even better than I was at that age, and be even better than me one day," he said. 

When to Watch

The 2014 Winter Olympics will be broadcast on NBC, beginning with the Opening Ceremonies on Feb. 6. To see when you can catch all the action, visit the NBC Olympics page and type in your zip code.


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