Winter Vinecki ran her first 5K at age 5. That’s 3.1 miles. By 8, a 10K—or 6.2 miles. When she was 9, she completed her first Olympic-distance triathlon in just under 4 hours. AKA she swam 0.93 miles, biked 24.85 miles, and ran 6.2 miles in the time it takes the average person to complete a marathon. At 14, she became the youngest person in the world to run a marathon on all 7 continents. One of those, surprisingly not the one in Antarctica, is deemed the “Toughest Marathon in the World”—a trek to the top of Peru’s Machu Picchu that takes hikers on average 4 days. She ran it in 9 hours and set the women’s course record. And earlier this year, at age 20, she became the 2019 US National Champion for the US Aerials Team and placed 3rd in the world. But that’s not all that makes IRONKIDS champion-turned-aerial skier Winter Vinecki our champion for self-discipline, heart, and grit.
She’s also a Juice Plus+ kid. We got to talk to her in between training sessions at Utah Olympic Park in July. When she began traveling for competitions at a young age, her parents saw the need to build a strong foundation of healthy habits. They taught her food is fuel. Her mom, Dawn Estelle, who was right by Winter’s side for all 7 marathons (literally), brought Juice Plus+ everywhere they went, from South America to Antarctica.
“In a lot of those places we didn’t have access to fruits and vegetables,” Winter tells us, pausing for the ziplines whirring down the mountain behind her. “And you don’t know if the food is going to be safe, so I knew at least I had the nutritional support of Juice Plus+ with me.”
And that’s just the beginning of Winter’s support system.
A Reason to Run
Also driving Winter was the loss of her father to an aggressive form of prostate cancer in March 2009, only 10 months after his diagnosis at age 40. With her mom and siblings’ support, Winter continued to compete in running races & triathlons every weekend, balancing school with a rigorous training schedule. On top of athletics, she founded Team Winter, a nonprofit organization that drives awareness and fundraises globally for prostate cancer.
“My parents named me Winter because they thought it was one of the most beautiful seasons with the most amazing twinkling snow in northern Michigan,” Winter says. So perhaps it was fate for Winter to meet Emily Cook, an Olympic aerial skier who inspired Winter to pursue her next venture, a winter sport that would essentially pay homage to her dad’s favorite season.
When Winter met aerial skiing, it was love at first flight. She was only on the Olympic Development Team Fly Elite for three seasons before she was nominated to the US Freestyle Ski Team.
So how did she do it?
Trial by Flying
To practice jumping on snow, she does something called water ramping—in the middle of summer. First, she climbs the stairs to the Doubles ski ramp in full gear (plus a life vest) and prepares herself:
“Two of the most important techniques for me are visualization and deep breathing,” she tells us, pointing to the top of the ramp. “So at the top of the jump, I am constantly visualizing the jump in my head, doing the arm movement and then taking some nice deep breaths to calm myself.”
What comes next took our breath away the first time we saw it: She jumps sideways so her skis face down the ramp, squats, then barrels down at full speed, and as soon as she hits the edge, she’s airborne, twisting and flying. She flips mid-air with ease before landing in a pool below. Landing in water gives her a more controlled and forgiving environment to learn new tricks and fine tune existing skills.
But of course, training has its risks too. In the fall of 2017, she had to get 2 titanium plates put in her face: “I hit the water with my fist in front of me, literally punched myself in the face and fractured the entire right side. It took three weeks to recover from this injury, and then I was ramping again.”
You read that correctly—she climbed right back up that ramp as soon as the doctors cleared her.
So that made us wonder, is there anything she’s afraid of?
“Sharks, probably.” But even the possibility of running into one has never stopped her from diving into murky waters to compete in triathlons.
Her Advice for Young Athletes?
“For all young athletes or anyone out there who is trying to do different sports, nutrition is just as important as the training…I think growing up, learning about where food is coming from, learning how to cook some things by yourself is important...because what you put in your body is what you’re going to get out of it,” Winter says.
On top of her impressive discipline, Winter’s passion is apparent in everything she does. Her words of wisdom: “Have fun with it. You have to love what you’re doing, and it’s going to show in your performance.”
And because she loves it, she fights through setbacks to accomplish her goals.
“You are going to face obstacles and challenges, but you have to overcome them,” she says, “I had one of my best seasons yet after my injuries because I was so focused and excited to come back.”
Fueled by a fire to always achieve more, passion for the sport, and support from her family, Winter continues training to make her dad proud. Follow Winter’s journey on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and get more behind-the-scenes by following Juice Plus+.