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Jepsen breaks out at Paralympics

WMSC alum wins four medals in PyeongChang

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With dreams of the podium and hopes of finishing in the top five of all her events, Mollie Jepsen certainly wasn't holding back when she spoke of her goals entering her first Paralympic Winter Games.

With four medals, a gold in the super combined, a silver and two bronzes, it's safe to say the 18-year-old exceeded her own lofty expectations.

"I definitely was looking for podium finishes in the speed events, but pulling stuff together, both in speed and in tech, has been pretty surreal," Jepsen said. "I didn't really expect to go as well as it has, I have to say."

Jepsen started her Games with bronze in the standing downhill behind France's Marie Bochet and Germany's Andrea Rothfuss on March 10. The next day, she took fourth in the super-G, with Bochet and Rothfuss again taking gold and silver, but Canadian Alana Ramsay was third. March 13 was Jepsen's day, as she took gold, besting Rothfuss and Ramsay. She then added to her total with another bronze, again behind Bochet and Rothfuss, in the giant slalom. On March 18, Jepsen wrapped up her first Games with silver in the slalom, with Bochet again winning and Rothfuss also hitting the podium.

Jepsen is thrilled to have excelled in both the speed and tech styles.

"It's quite huge. I've never raced a super combined before so I had pretty low expectations going in. I wasn't sure how that was going to go. I don't race a lot of slalom anymore, so I just tried to keep it pretty positive and have fun with it," she said. "It's an event that displays who the overall skiers are—we have speed skiers and tech skiers, so to be one that goes off in alpine combined is one that can do everything. I'm really happy to be able to stand on top of the podium in that event."

Jepsen, who is missing fingers on her left hand, came into the combined with a bit of a chip on her shoulder after falling below her expectations in the super-G. The added intensity provided a little something extra in the following events.

"I was a little bit frustrated, I think, after the super-G and coming in fourth. That was the event I thought I was going to do the best in. I put a little bit of extra aggressive anger in there and I was charging more than I had the other days," she said. "Once I finished the super-G portion and finished pretty well, sitting in second, I thought that I could definitely pull this off. That definitely added a little more energy to it. I attacked even more in the slalom and I kind of knew pretty much when I crossed the finish line in slalom that I had put together a run that could definitely put me on top."

While going from speed to tech can be a tough turnaround, Jepsen handled it well, noting it's something she's trained for leading up to the Games.

"It definitely has its challenges. It's like going from an opposite event to the other, which makes it a little bit difficult," she said. "It's quite a challenge to be able to adapt, but we tend to train one or two events on training day so we get used to the switchover. It's actually become quite normal and isn't too bad."

Away from the hill, Jepsen has tried to soak in as much of the Paralympic atmosphere as possible. One cool thing she's noticed is flashbacks to the Whistler Games, where events took place mere metres from her family's Creekside home.

"It's been really cool. I was around in Whistler in 2010, so especially, (being) at the venue has the same feeling, and just so much energy. It's really awesome being in the athletes' village with all the other Canadian athletes and crossing the finish line and seeing all your family there, waving Canadian flags around," she said. "It's just been a really awesome and positive environment."

Jepsen said she hadn't had much opportunity to see the other festivities around the Paralympics, as she's just been shuttling between the athletes' village and the mountain, leaving around 5 a.m., getting to the hill an hour later, and not returning to the village until about 7 p.m.

"It's been pretty long packed days," she said on March 14. "I haven't seen much, but hopefully I'll get to pack in some other sports in the next few days.

"They're definitely the longest days I've had before in my skiing career."

The Sea to Sky's other alpine entrant, Squamish's Alex Cairns, took 14th in the sitting giant slalom on March 14 and 10th in the sitting slalom on March 17.

In Nordic skiing, Pemberton's Ethan Hess took 24th in the sitting 15-kilometre race on March 11, 27th in the 1.1-km sprint on March 14 and 28th in the 7.5-km race on March 17.

Lastly, snowboarder John Leslie took seventh in the LL2 snowboard-cross on March 12 and eighth in the banked slalom on March 15.

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