Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Boston’s Own Olympian: Addicted to Speed

By Muriel Hoffacker
Gordon College News Service
February 3, 2010

With a love for the Red Sox, karaoke, dancing and the ocean, Michelle Gorgone, 26, might appear an average Bostonian. What distinguishes her is a love for speed, which will come in handy when the 2010 Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver, British Columbia. Gorgone will be competing on Team USA in the Parallel Giant Slalom (PGS) on Cypress Mountain.


Gorgone skied as a child but switched to snowboarding at age 12, and now has built a solid slalom career. She says she’ll be less nervous in Vancouver than she was in Torino’s 2006 Winter Olympic games and this time, as she’s dodging through gates at breakneck speeds, she may even focus on less risky things, like fashion. 

“When you’re racing, things are coming at you so fast,” said Gorgone.  “Sometimes I’ll think very technically and be very concentrated, but other times it’s better not to think about technique or how to go faster.  So I go into auto pilot and think about what cute outfit I’m going to wear that night.”

The 515-meter PGS course is laid out beginning at a start elevation of 1133-meters high.  The competition consists of two snowboarders racing each other down the course, each turning through her set of gates.  The winner of each round moves to the next round.  The top finishers each total nine runs down Cypress Mountain’s PGS course—more runs than any other skier in the Winter Olympics.

“The feeling I get when I know I was the fastest girl out there that day is unbeatable,” said Gorgone.

Which might be why Gorgone regards her greatest accomplishment so far as placing in the final qualifiers in Torino four years ago.  The night before her last chance to qualify she came down with a 24-hour stomach bug that left her vomiting and achy. But her exhaustion from the night before didn’t stop her from placing in the top four.

“It was amazing, and everyone watching knew what I had to do to qualify,” said Gorgone.  When she found out she’d succeeded, she says she started crying and saw some of racers from other countries were too. “I have never been so strong mentally when it comes to racing, but something happened (then) and I was,” said Gorgone.  She got fourth place qualifier, and learned, as she said, “what I was made of.” 

Gorgone loves the feeling of being the fastest woman on the slopes.  Though racing is her job, she does it because it’s fun, constantly motivated by the stopwatch.  “I usually train to keep within a certain percentage of the boys,” said Gorgone.  “If they can do it, I can do it.”

Gorgone has fun traveling and meeting her athletic comrades from other countries, but despite the postcard-perfect mountains that Gorgone has snowboarded on, Boston remains her point of pride.

“I love how small it is even for a big city,” said Gorgone.  “Everything is close; it’s young, active, and there’s tons of pride. Everyone has been very supportive. It’s a great place to call home.”

Michelle Gorgone


2010 LG Snowboarding World Cup in Kreischberg

Photo © Oliver Kraus

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