Name: Meehyun Lee
Country: South Korea
Sport: Slopestyle skiing
Years in the sport: 14
How did you get started in freestyle skiing?
Well, one does not just start freestyle skiing out of nowhere. I began skiing at the age of 3 and then around nine years old I saw some older kids doing it and I became hooked and pretty much started immediately then.
Goals for the next year?
I am sure my goals are similar if not the same to most competitive athletes. I hope to continue to improve both my fitness and my level of skiing. There is always room for improvement and I always want to get better.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Actually, 5 years is an odd number for an athlete who competes in the Olympics. So, I am looking at 4 years’ time at the moment. 2022 is the next Winter Olympics in Beijing and competing for South Korea is where I see myself in 4 years’ time.
My favorite Athlete would have to be Bethany Hamilton, a professional surfer. She suffered a possible career ending injury. However, she didn’t let it keep her down, she persevered, rehabbed and trained to continue surfing and continue to inspire surfing to younger generations, especially women.
What has been your biggest challenge as an athlete and how did you overcome it?
The challenges I’ve had to face are not uncommon to any athlete. Having to deal with a number of injuries and the time they take to not only rehab but taking time away from being on my skis doing something I love. Another side of that is having to wait, waiting to be completely 100% before getting back out there so as not to do any more damage.
Best advice that you have been given?
Luckily in my life I have met a lot of inspirational people, coaches, trainers and friends. The best piece of advice given to me was by Brendan Trieb reminding me to have patience off the take off. It’s a great reminder, that even though my sports are extremely fast, one must have patience.
I do love to compete at anything I am doing, so any chance I can get in some fun games or activities with friends, I am always keen. I do enjoy surfing during the warmer weather and its something I would like to spend more time doing. In my downtime, I like to paint. It helps to calm and relax me when I am by myself at home.
My taste in music is always evolving. But I am pretty true to what I listened to when I first started skiing, that is 80s and 90s punk rock. Its great for getting me in the right frame of mind for skiing.
What’s the best part of competing?
Once of the best parts of competing is the fact it is a dual competition. What I mean by that is knowing that yes, I am competing against the other competitors, but I am also competing against myself. So, no matter which way I look at it, I am in a fierce competition
My favorite quote is “Win the Day” by Eric Thomas. I have always liked this because it represents the stages of working hard and progress. Winning one day at a time can lead up to winning weeks and months and eventually years. Its about the process of doing something and that success comes in steps and does not happen overnight.
If you could train with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
If I could train with anyone, I would love to train with Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali. Yes, they were both the best at their respective disciplines, but carried themselves in different manners. Bruce Lee’s confidence was demonstrated through his quietness and solitude. Muhammad Ali’s confidence allowed him to be brash and outspoken. They both were motivated by social injustice and stood up for themselves and those they felt were mistreated.
If you could compete in another sport what would it be and why?
As I mentioned before I enjoy surfing. I can see myself competing in that sport if I had grown up living by the seaside with waves calling me every day.
Favourite place to compete?
I don’t really have a specific place that is my favorite. The places I’ve done well are my favorite. Seiser Alm, Italy is one of the places I enjoy competing. The course is usually fun and smooth , and I try to take advantage of the things I am good at in order to give a great performance.
Do you have any special warm up routine?
I like to have a cup of coffee and then some light stretching. However before taking laps I need to have everything in order. I mean having all of my equipment, perfectly ready the way I like it.
What time is your alarm set for?
It always varies as it depends on my training routine. Currently my alarm is set for 7:09am.
Ice cream or cake?
Not an easy one, but I am going with ice cream. I am a big fan of coffee ice cream and mint chocolate chip.
What do you do on your rest days?
As I mentioned before, I enjoy painting and doing anything competitive with my friends, but it can’t be anything too physically demanding that could result in an injury to myself. Like most of us, I also like watching some Netflix while relaxing at home.
Last non food item you bought?
This isn’t a big thing, but I recently bought some string lights for my apartment. They help make it nice and cozy and makes me happier when I am home.
Do you have a lucky number?
I’m not saying if it is lucky or not, but I am a big fan of the number 13.
Best thing you’ve done in the past 3 months?
I visited my friends and family, and it took me away from training for a while, it was nice to have a short break. But I quickly started to miss training and couldn’t wait to get back at it.
Strangest thing you’ve ever witnessed?
I have seen some strange things in my day, but nothing I think I will be sharing here.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I would say the best piece of advice I have received is being given and learning to give optimistic criticisms. For being able to teach and criticize without using negative words. A great example of this is instead of saying “don’t put your head down” versus “keep your head up”. It’s not necessarily about being super positive, but it is simply about removing the negative.
Scariest thing you’ve ever done?
This may sound weird, but I have been to the top floor or the CN Tower in Toronto and walked on the glass ceiling. Even though I jump through the air whilst I ski, I am not a fan of floating that high in the air while I’m standing and not in control.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what one person and thing would you like to have?
This is a no brainer as I would bring Bear Grylls and whatever thing he wanted to bring to help us survive. If there is one person in the world that would help you on a desert island, it would be Bear.
What would be your perfect meal?
The word ‘perfect’ brings a lot of pressure, so I wouldn’t want to do that to the chef. That being said, I love a medium rare steak with mash potatoes and some nice fresh broccoli.
What performance are you most proud of?
This is an easy answer with so many reasons. It at the winter Olympics in PyeongChang. It was the first time Korean adoptees competed in the Olympics for Korea. I achieved the best result in Korean woman’s skiing in Korean Olympic history. I finished in 13thplace, .2 from a spot in the finals and I was able to do it in front of a home crowd of cheering fans.
Hardest sport moment you’ve had to push through?
The hardest sport moment I have to push through is not rushing a recovery from an injury. Of course, I would like to ski. But not being 100% will hurt you in the long run. However, I excused myself by competing in the Olympics. There are times where you need to be smart and other times when you take chances.
What have you learned from skiing that has helped you in other parts of your life?
I’m still learning how to be patient and how to work well with others. If I was to pin point one specific thing, it is to always be smart about a decision, rather not be careful. When someone tells me to be careful, I change it in my head immediately to “be smart” .
If you had to travel either forward in time or backward in time, which would you choose?
I would choose to go forward in time. As most of my friends can attest to, I’m impatient. I wouldn’t change a thing I did in my past and jumping ahead in time would be interesting and quite shocking to see the before and after differences.
What is the most unusual, challenging, or creative workout you’ve ever done?
The most challenging workout I have ever done was when I doing a new type of training that involved using a heavy weight for 8 intervals of 10 sets for 60 seconds each. It was a brutal exercise but it was so good.
I love Koala’s because they are fun and Panda’s are cute and fluffy looking. However the tiger and lion are more to my liking. I like the tiger because it’s fierce and will not hesitate. Lions are patient, which is something I need to work on.
Dream job besides an athlete?
I would be in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) field. I would get the satisfaction of an intense environment and being able to help people.
What motivates you to keep training?
I love to ski and being able to ski competitively is a dream come true. That alone helps me to keep training. There is also the added benefit of the adrenaline rush that comes along with my sport, it is a feeling that just can’t be duplicated.
Favourite time of year?
Even though I do love skiing and being on the hills and with the fresh powder. I also love a nice campfire in the fall and a hot beach in the summer. So it depends on where I am and what I am doing.
Of all the people you have trained with over the years, from whom have you learned the most?
It’s a small group of individuals that have been able to truly help me out. Luckily Brendan Trieb and Chris Ashcraft at Ohio Dreams Action Sports were key to helping me to train on water ramps and trampolines. Also, my current Coach Peter Olenick who helped me before, during and since the Olympics.
How many hours do you train at a given week?
It does vary depending on which season it is. If I’m skiing 5-6 days in a week and a full day on the hill, meaning about 6 hours each day plus training afterwards. Of course, some weeks are lighter than others, depending on if its before or after a competition.
Best memory you have from a time when you were training?
One of my fondest memories was in 2011 when I was skiing at a summer camp. I was able to impress some of the coaches there which resulted in me being invited to larger events. That summer was a real jumping point in my career. The weather was perfect and I remember wanting to get out, get filming and get some great shots of me showing what I can do.
If you could trade places with anyone for a day who would it be? Why?
I am not the tallest person in the world, so I would like to trade places with someone who is on the other side of the spectrum just for a day. Maybe someone 6’6 or taller, just to see what it is like. I don’t want to change my height, as I think I am perfect the way I am.
What are you plans for 5 years down the line?
Like I mentioned earlier, I am focused on the 4 year mark for the next winter Olympics. However I think after the next Olympics I am going to take some time off to relax and reflect. It may be by a beach possibly working on my next career as a surfer.
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. It is about overcoming difficulties and succeeding through dedication and teamwork. I enjoy this book a lot because it shows the power of success through social morality and spiritually.
What does a typical day of training look like?
Usually I will wake up and have a coffee and the grab some breakfast. After that I will head to the mountain and get some skiing in. I’ll then decide when to grab something eat, either during skiing or afterwards. Then I will head back to my room to get in some rest. Afterwards I will go to the gym for some light training and some core exercises. After training a short rest before dinner. After dinner varies between relaxing, having meetings with coaches and staff or watching my film from the days work.
Anything people be surprised to learn about you?
I actually got quite good at playing the banjo in my downtime. Sadly, I have let it drop off. Possibly I might pick it up again in the future.
What is the funniest thing has happened to you/others while training?
One time in front of a group of fellow skiers I wasn’t really paying attention and ended up falling over whilst wearing my skis for no reason. It was embarrassing and funny at the same time.
Best movie and tv series?
There’s quite a lot out there these days. I am a fan of a lot of different Netflix series. It all depends if I have time to sit down and concentrate. I’m a fan of TrollHunters and Rick and Morty. They are 2 animated series, but completely different.
Favourite food while training?
I really enjoy a caesar salad with slices of beef with cheese and some baby tomatoes.
Results you’re most proud of?
Some results I am proud of are finishing 7thin Seiser Alm Italy. The US Grand Prix Park City and Mammoth Halfpipe as before this event I had not competed in in halfpipe and I ended up in the middle of the pack, not bad for my first time. Finally, of course, Placing 13thin the PyeongChang Olympics which was the highest for any Korean female skier.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by taking risks. I relish the challenge of starting something I don’t know how to do and figuring it out. I enjoy witnessing others strive and reaching for something new. I also enjoy the potential of failure, but not absolute failure.
Do you have a saying or motto you live by?
“Don’t let you take over your talent.” My good friend Shane Curry said that to me when I was in a bad spot mentally for skiing after my first local competition. I was 10 years old. He meant for me to not let me get into my own head, so that I was able to perform the way I can.
What do you enjoy most about freestyle skiing?
The freeness and creativity of it. Being able to express myself through skiing. Though the sport has a team element to it, there is a large individual element to it which I relish.
Advise that you have for someone starting out skiing?
My advice would be to just go out there and have fun and to remember that you are going to fall, but to always get back up.
What is the most crucial part of your training?
The most crucial part of training is to train smart. Anyone and everyone can train hard, but training smart helps you take it to another level. To be aware of limitations and not be limited by them or ignore them if apart of training smart. Doing this whilst having fun is the most crucial part of training because at the end of the day, if there is no fun involved, there is no passion.
Anyone you would like to thank?
I would like to thank my amazing sponsors, ON3P skis, Oakley, The Korean Ski Association and my current coach Peter Olenick for taking the team to the Olympics and helping us do so well.
Did you enjoy this post on Meehyun Lee? Be sure to check out our interview with Sofya Fedorova, World Champion Snowboarder!