At the starting gate, thoughts race through Olivia Giaccio’s mind before tackling the mogul course below her. And every millisecond counts. She embodies all the characteristics of a true athlete: commitment, precision, and courage.
An impressive list of attributes, and even more so, when people learn that Giaccio is only 15 and a member of the 2016-17 United States Freestyle Ski Team.
Before her run, Giaccio visualizes it three times while remembering the countless hours of her workouts and training.
“In this brief moment of remembrance, I understand that I’ve prepared myself as much as I possibly can for this moment, and it’s all about letting myself do what I know I can do,” she said. “Right before my run, I really let go, take a few deep breaths, push out of the gate, and let my muscle memory complete the rest.”
The spectators are captivated by her speed, accuracy and aerials. And one of those spectators is her grandmother, Adrienne Falzon, a children’s author who resides in Rancho Santa Fe.
“Olivia has always been extremely focused and has strived for excellence with a positive attitude toward daily self-improvement and a quest for knowledge,” Falzon said.
Falzon’s granddaughter began competing as a freestyle mogul skier at the age of 10. A few of her many accomplishments include being one of the youngest females ever to execute a complete backflip with full spin; being the youngest competitor earning a World Cup spot at Deer Valley in February 2016; and, being the youngest athlete in the 2016-17 U.S. Freestyle Ski Team.
Immersed in athletics, Giaccio also admits how she has a passion for academics. She attends the esteemed Stanford University Online High School and has a penchant for writing.
“I definitely feel as though I am receiving a great education, while still able to continue pursuing my passion of mogul skiing to the greatest extent possible,” she said.
Originally from Connecticut, Giaccio and her family moved to Vermont in 2011 and then made a beeline to Vail, Colo., in 2013. However, that’s about to change in June since the U.S. Ski Team trains in Park City, Utah and the Giaccio family will be making another exciting move.
Giaccio’s mother, Erin, said that her daughter’s athletic career has put the family on a path that they never anticipated.
“To compete at this elite level, it is important to have the proper training and coaches. In order to do this, you need to go where the snow is,” Erin Giaccio said. “This was one of our major forces in our family’s decision to relocate to Colorado from our home in Vermont. Stemming from the amount of snow fall that the West receives compared to the East, the training, programs and competitions in the East are not a match for the training, programs and competitions in the West.”
According to Giaccio, she is beyond enthusiastic to begin training with her team.
“Making the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team has been a vital accomplishment in my skiing career thus far, especially because the 2018 Olympics are less than two years away,” Giaccio said. “And this achievement puts me in a great position to make a run at qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Team and competing in South Korea.”
Giaccio received her U.S. Freestyle Ski Team nomination in April. She said that she was selected to be a member due to her performance at The U.S. Freestyle National Championships in March 2016. From all the top female mogul skiers she competed against, she secured second place.
Many call Giaccio’s performance extraordinary considering how she had recently recovered from an injury after she placed 16th at her first World Cup event in Deer Valley. Giaccio compressed three vertebrae in a hard fall two days later during another run which required a four week recovery.
“During these four weeks, I was scheduled to compete in the North American Tour, which consists of four events held throughout North America,” she said. “The overall winner of this tour, if they are from the U.S., is awarded a spot on the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team for the following year.”
Giaccio described these four weeks as the toughest — but she pushed through it.
In addition to her family, she also notes that her successes this year stems from her coaches Kate Blamey and Bobby Aldighieri of Steamboat Winter Sports Club.
“Olivia sets the standard for progression and confidence in Women’s mogul skiing presenting an outwardly fearless attitude towards some of the most challenging aspects of the sport,” Kate Blamey said.
Aldighieri also worked with Giaccio this year.
“Throughout my coaching career I have found that there is one attribute that is absolutely necessary for an athlete to achieve high levels and that is athlete character,” he said. “Olivia epitomizes this trait.”
Looking ahead, Matthew Gnoza, head mogul coach for the United States Freestyle Ski Team, said he is very excited to have Giaccio join their Women’s Mogul Team.
“This past season Olivia proved to be one of the top up and coming mogul skiers in the United States,” he said. “With Olivia’s dedication, work ethic and talent the 2018 Olympic Games are well within her reach.”
While Giaccio thanks her parents for all their support and encouragement, she is quick to point out how her younger brother, Frankie, has been a positive influence for her, too.
Giaccio’s father, Frank, shed some light about a misconception regarding funding for the ski team.
“Olivia is responsible for all of her expenses, including her traveling, lodging, and competition expense,” he said, noting how it may exceed $29,000 for the year.
Giaccio’s mother explained how, that now that her daughter has reached an elite level, what comes next is elite training and traveling.
“With the national team, she will be traveling to train on snow in Whistler in June for two weeks, Australia in August for three weeks and then Switzerland in October for three weeks,” she said. “Olivia’s goal is to be a part of the full World Cup tour this year and to perform well enough to begin posting results towards qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics.”
Giaccio admits that what keeps her grounded is embracing that there is always room for improvement.
“Each and every day, I just try to perform in every area of my life to the greatest potential and always try to be as kind and grateful as I can to everyone in my life,” Giaccio said.
To learn more about Giaccio’s journey, she invites you to join “TeamLivy” at oliviagiaccio.com for journal updates and support for her training and travel expenses.