Gaylord Native Vinecki Seeks Spot in 2022 Winter Olympics
Gaylord native Winter Vinecki is among 31 athletes nominated for the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team for the 2020-21 season.
A four-year member of the U.S. Ski Team, marathon runner and triathlete, Vinecki, 21, was born in Grand Rapids, raised in Gaylord and Salem, Oregon before settling in to train in Park City, Utah with the U.S. Ski Team.
Vinecki has attended the University of Utah and was crowned the 2019 U.S. National Champion for aerial skiers. She has three career World Cup top-10 finishes, five career NorAm Cup wins, 10 NorAm Cup podiums and was the 2016 NorAm Cup title winner.
She’s been able to accomplish all of this without her father by her side.
In 2009 when she was just nine years old, Vinecki’s father passed away from prostate cancer, just prior to his 41st birthday.
“At the time, prostate cancer was affecting one in six men, and the men didn’t want to talk about it. That’s why I decided at the time a nine-year-old girl was going to talk about it for them,” Vinecki says.
After losing her father, Vinecki started TeamWinter.org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to raise money for prostate cancer research and awareness.
“I actually have a foundation called Team Winter for prostate cancer research and awareness that I founded right around the time my dad was diagnosed. I’ve raised over a half million dollars through that foundation with help of people around the world,” Vinecki said. “When I first started out, I remember we had a goal of raising $10,000, and it was amazing just reaching that goal. And so now, over half a million is pretty incredible.”
To help raise awareness for prostate cancer and honor her father, Vinecki set out to become the youngest person to run a marathon on all seven continents. Vinecki ran marathons in Eugene, Oregon (April 29, 2012), Kenya (Sept. 29, 2012), Antarctica (March 30, 2013), Peru (June 5, 2013), Mongolia (Aug. 7, 2013), New Zealand (Oct. 12, 2013) and Athens, Greece. While competing with her mother, the two became the first mother/daughter duo to run a marathon on all seven continents.
“After my dad passed away, I wanted to do something big in his memory and that’s when I found the world record for the youngest person to run a marathon on all seven continents,” Vinecki said. “I loved the longer distance and the running was my favorite part and so I naturally had been going to gravitating towards marathons and this seemed like the perfect record for me. I think I was like 10 or 11 when I saw this, and then I was able to capture that record with my mom a few years later.”
“Whether it was in triathlons or running or skiing, I always knew I wanted to compete for my country in the Olympics,” she said. “In these last few years I’ve really started to kind of make myself one of the top athletes and so seeing that progression and knowing all the hard work that I put into it is turning into reality is huge motivator for the years to come and especially going into an important season next year since it’s only two years away from the Olympics now.”