Winter Games Athletes
Vanlaanen fought through a difficult qualification process to earn her first trip to the Olympics, beating out several halfpipe skiers many thought would take the spot instead. She has been in the top 10 in six of her previous seven events, including a trio of podium finishes that came when it mattered most - in qualifying. She won her very first World Cup event Jan. 31, 2009, but didn’t climb back atop the podium on the circuit until a second-place finish on Aug. 17 of last year. Her three-year absence from competition was a result of being treated for Lyme disease, which went undiagnosed for 14 years after she contracted it from an insect bite when she was 10. Vanlaanen’s Olympic qualification would have greatly pleased her friend and mentor Sarah Burke, the Canadian halfpipe star who died from head injuries she sustained in a crash during training in January 2012.