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When it comes to overcoming adversity, 2014 Olympic silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace is a pro. The Utah County mom of two spent 13 years competing in the skeleton before her Olympic win during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi a few months ago. Pikus-Pace shared her journey with members of the Utah Technology Council during the organization’s annual members’ meeting.
Pikus-Pace talked about how she got knocked down—sometimes literally—many times before achieving her goal of medaling in the Olympics.
When she first started competing in the skeleton, she tried one of the most dangerous skeleton tracks in the world in Germany. She was told by many to watch out for the curves, as several were tricky to maneuver. One such curve that went in a 360-degree circle bested her. She recalls flying up to the top of the curve and back down to the bottom several times before being separated from her sled.
“The moral of the story and lesson I learned is one I’ve applied a lot in my life,” she said. “Where you look is where you’ll go. I was looking right at the wood on the track and I hit it. So where are you looking? Where are your sights set? Do you set daily goals, monthly goals? It’s the small decisions we make every day that make up who we are and who we will become.”
Just a few years later, Pikus-Pace had risen to the top of her game. She was considered one of the best in the world when it came to the skeleton. During a training day, as Pikus-Pace was talking with members of her team, a bobsled came down the track behind her, and before she could get out of the way, it hit her. She flew 30 feet in the air and landed on pavement. After not being able to get up, she realized there were bones sticking out of her leg.
“That’s when I knew my Olympic dream was gone,” she said.
She was not able to qualify for the 2006 Winter Olympics, but four years later in 2010, Pikus-Pace was named to Team USA. She had a hard time coping with the pressures of the Olympics, but learned from a fellow Olympian that she couldn’t worry about the distractions around her—a lesson she believes a lot of people should follow.
“We all have a lot of distractions, whether it’s with social media, family obligations or work responsibilities,” she said. “We all have a lot of things that require our time. It’s up to us to figure out what matters most and put one foot in front of the other and achieve our goals.”
Pikus-Pace finished in fourth place in 2010, losing the bronze medal by just a 10th of a second.
“Sometimes we have to give ourselves a pat on the back when things don’t go as planned,” she said. “As long as you’re doing your best, you have to allow yourself to say ‘I did everything I could.’”
The UTC also elected a slate of board officers and trustees for the coming year and talked about major wins the organization has had over the last several years, such as securing funding for USTAR and the STEM Action Center. Peer awards were also given to several people who have worked as advocates for UTC. The following individuals received awards: