How Eileen Gu, Olympic Freeskier, Manages Fear


tumultuous /tjʊ’mʌltjʊəs/  1.very loud; involving strong feelings, especially feelings of approval 嘈杂的;喧嚣的;热烈的;欢腾的 ◆ tumultuous applause 热烈的欢呼声 2.involving a lot of change and confusion and/or violence 动荡的;动乱的;狂暴的 ◆ the tumultuous years of the English Civil War 英国内战的动乱年代

mercurial /mɜː’kjʊərɪəl/ If you describe someone as mercurial, you mean that they frequently change their mind or mood without warning. 善变的;变化无常的;难以预测的;◆ Emily’s mercurial temperament made her difficult to live with. 埃米莉脾气反覆无常,很难与她相处。 文中近义词:capricious

gargantuan /gɑ:ˈgæntʃu:ən/ extremely large 巨大的;庞大的

tantalize /ˈtæntəˌlaɪz/ to make a person or an animal want sth that they cannot have or do 使(某人)想要却得不到(某物);逗引;挑逗;撩拨;◆ The tantalizing aroma of fresh coffee wafted towards them. 新鲜咖啡那诱人的香味向他们飘来。

moisten /’mɒɪs(ə)n/ To moisten something means to make it slightly wet. 使湿润;弄湿;


Eileen Gu is only 18. Born and raised in California, Gu competes for her mother’s native China, where she hopes to win three gold medals: in halfpipe, slopestyle and big air.


Gu’s relationship to fear is evolving. She thinks about it a lot. She keeps a diary, and some of her handwritten entries, she said, are devoted to the subject of fear, in all its forms.


At the request of The New York Times, Gu wrote down her thoughts on fear — how she views it, how she manages it, how she hopes to conquer it.


Essay by Eileen Gu


FOR THE LAST 10 OF MY 18 YEARS, I’ve pursued a tumultuous love affair with fear. I’m a professional freeskier, and twin-tipped skis, 22-foot halfpipes and double-cork rotations are my main sources of adrenaline, the truly addictive core of extreme sports.


Like all bewitching lovers (at least the ones in the novels I read, for lack of real-world experience), this significant other can be … mercurial. “Fear” is really an umbrella term for three distinct sensations: excitement, uncertainty, and pressure. I’ve learned that the nuanced indicators of each of these feelings can be instrumental to success when recognized and positively leveraged, and harbingers of injury when ignored.


Though it’s easy to label extreme sport athletes as fearless or capricious, the countless hours I’ve spent visualizing tricks and practicing them in foam pits (foam. particles. everywhere) and on airbags (think giant Slip ’N Slide) suggest otherwise. It’s biologically counterintuitive for us to place ourselves in positions of risk, and while we make every effort to physically prepare, no amount of metaphorically safety-netted practice can equate to the unforgiving snow slope that rushes up to meet us after a steep kicker launches us into the air. Instead of ignoring fear, we build unique relationships with it by developing a profound sense of self-awareness and making deliberate risk assessments.

虽然极限运动员很容易被贴上无畏或不走寻常路的标签,但其实,我曾花无数个小时在海绵池(填满了泡沫和颗粒)和气垫上(想象一种巨型的Slip ’N Slide滑水道)想象做那些技巧动作的画面,并进行练习。把自己置于危险境地从生理上说是违背天性的,虽然我们尽一切努力做好了身体状态上的准备,但再多的所谓安全训练,也不能与无情的雪坡相提并论,在一个剧烈颠簸将我们抛入空中之后,它就直奔我们而来。我们不是忽视恐惧,而是通过探索深刻的自我意识和深思熟虑的风险评估,与恐惧建立独特的关系。

The work begins with visualization. Before I attempt a new trick, I feel a tightening high in my chest, between the base of my throat and the top of my diaphragm. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. As I ascend the gargantuan takeoff ramp, I imagine extending my legs to maximize lift. Then I picture twisting my upper body in the opposite direction I intend to spin, generating torque before I allow it to snap back the other way.


Now, in my mind, I’m airborne. I see the backside of the takeoff immediately, then my flip draws my vision to the cloudless sky above me. My ears register the wind as a kind of song, every 360-degree rotation providing the beat to the music of my motion. As my feet come under me halfway through, I spot the landing for the briefest of moments before I pull my body into the second flip. I imagine my legs swinging under me as I return to a forward-facing position and meet the ground with my weight in the front of my boots. 1440 degrees. I smile. Then I open my eyes.


In the split second following my visualization, the knot in my chest flutters and spreads — those famous butterflies reaching their final stage of metamorphosis. Excitement, the child of adrenaline, my true love and addiction. That tantalizingly precarious balance between confidence in my ability to execute the trick safely and excitement for the unpredictable experience to come. I’ve heard this state called “the zone,” which is indeed where I was when I became the first female skier in history to land the double cork 1440 last fall.

想象结束后的一刹那,堵在我胸口的疙瘩终于扑腾着舒展开来——就像化茧成蝶那著名的蜕变终章。随着肾上腺素而来的兴奋,就是我真正热爱和沉迷的东西。对安稳完成动作的自信,对即将到来的未知体验的兴奋,这两者之间那种摇摇欲坠的平衡让我欲罢不能。我听说这种状态被称为“化境”(the zone),去年秋天,当我成为历史上第一个完成前空翻两周加转体四周的女性滑雪运动员时,我的确进入了那样的状态。

It doesn’t take much, unfortunately, for uncertainty to override confidence. Imperfect preparation moistens my palms, pushes that tight spot down into my stomach and makes each breath shallower than the last. The feeling isn’t panic, but something like dread. Danger! cries every evolutionary instinct. If I should choose to look past this safety mechanism, my body may act autonomously in the air, twisting out of the rotation and forcing me to brace for impact out of fear that full commitment to the trick may end in disaster. Every freeskier’s goal is to recognize the minute differences between excitement and uncertainty in order to maximize performance while minimizing the risk of injury.


Finally, there’s pressure, an energy source that can be wielded in many ways. One’s experience of pressure — by far the most subjective facet of “fear” — is affected by personal experiences and perspectives. Expectations of family and friends, a competitive streak, or even sponsorship opportunities can provide the scaffolding for a high-pressure environment. Pressure can be a positive force for competitors who leverage it to rise to the occasion, but it can also single-handedly dictate competitive failure.


But whether athletes alleviate or compound their innate desire to “prove themselves” depends largely on confidence. As I enter my early adulthood, I’m proud of the work I’ve done to cope with pressure by bolstering my self-esteem and minimizing my need for external validation. I focus on gratitude, perspective, and on the joy this sport brings me, regardless of whether I’m alone or in front of a worldwide TV audience. Though my views of myself and the world are constantly evolving, one thing is for certain: no matter how much time passes, I’ll always be a hopeless romantic when it comes to fear.


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