It’s not every day that a 2010 Olympian walks around Idaho Springs, but that’s where skier Hailey Duke was last week. Actually, she was just stationed there while commuting up to Echo Mountain for a couple of days of warm-up runs before she seeks to complete the biggest comeback of her life.
“We always have to come to Colorado during this time of the year. It’s got the best skiing and best training leading into the first race of the season,” the 28-year-old Sun Valley, Idaho native said.
And that first race was going to be a little extra special.
Duke spent five years on the U.S. national ski team, but two years ago, with dwindling results, she was cut from the squad.
“It’s the call you never want to receive, but it happened,” Duke said.
It wasn’t all that long ago — 2010 — that she was skiing in the Olympics, placing 30th in the women’s slalom in Vancouver. Then last year, just weeks before her first race, Duke was diagnosed with a benign tumor on her pituitary gland.
“I learned about that in mid-October. My first race was in mid-November. I tried to juggle with it, but I realized that my body and the results were not having that so I had brain surgery to remove the tumor last February,” Duke said.
The surgery has created a whole new lease not just on her career, but on life in general, Duke said. She is taking everything that she’s learned and testing it out. So far it’s working pretty well on the course, she said.
Part of the reason for that is her reuniting with her former Park City, Utah, coach Patrick Purcell. Duke moved to Park City for her senior year of high school, knowing that she needed a different environment if she was going to make it big.
Now she’s eyeing is the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. That’s where Echo Mountain came into play. It was a tune-up for Finland and what’s to follow because that’s the only way she’s going to get back to the Olympics.
By the time the Europa Cup started on Nov. 24 in Finland, she hadn’t competed in nearly a year.
Duke hasn’t chosen the easiest route when it comes to skiing. She’s had to prove herself over and over again. This time will be no different.
Contact Michael Hicks at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.