Aspen’s Mueller-Ristine carries the flag at Youth Olympic Games
ASPEN – While carrying the U.S. flag during Sunday’s closing ceremonies for the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, Julia Mueller-Ristine had a revelation: She is going to be an Olympic skier.
“I’ve always wanted to go to the Olympics; it’s a huge goal of mine,” said the Aspen High School junior, who skis for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. “But seeing all these athletes who’ve dedicated their lives to this sport – and being part of the whole Olympic experience – made it really bright and clear that this is what I want to do.”
Mueller-Ristine competed in four events at the Winter Youth Olympic Games: super G, super combined, giant slalom and slalom; her best finishes came in slalom (12th) and super combined (17th).
But the experience of being at the games – which brought together nearly 1,100 teenage athletes from more than 70 nations – went far beyond the slopes Mueller-Ristine skied.
“It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had,” said the native Aspenite, who arrived back home Tuesday afternoon. The games, which included 63 sporting competitions, took place Jan. 13-22. “What made it different from all the other races was seeing all the different athletes from all the different sports and countries coming together.
“We all know what it’s like to work hard and give up so much to do the sport we love. We all had so much in common.”
And being the flag bearer for Team USA was the icing on the cake for Mueller-Ristine: “The music was blaring, and we were on the stage, and to see all the athletes and spectators … it was amazing.
“I just remember standing there, holding the flag. It was such an honor to represent my country.”
In fact, being chosen to carry the flag was an honor in and of itself – Mueller-Ristine was elected for the position by her fellow American athletes. First, the 16-year-old was nominated to represent her sport; then, she had to give a speech before the other athletes about why she would make a good representative for Team USA.
“I talked about how the Youth Olympic Games really made me think about skiing and my sport; about how badly I want to keep fighting to get to the actual Olympics. … I am going to go to the Olympics.”
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