Olympian and Sweetwood Brand Ambassador Mick Dierdorff sat down with us to reflect on both his Olympic experience as well as his recent World Cup Finals in Switzerland:
Mick! Tell me all about your experience qualifying for the Olympics!?
Qualifying for the games was absolutely the most difficult and stressful part of the Olympic experience. In my sport, snowboardcross, the US has the strongest and deepest field of athletes making it the hardest nation to earn a spot for the Olympics. This also made it the most rewarding feeling once I found out that I had actually qualified for the games.
There were five World Cups leading into the Olympics that were used as the qualifying criteria. I was the most consistent US rider in those 5 races, earning top 10 finishes in 4/5 races. The crazy thing was that this season was also by far the best results I have ever had. So not only was it exciting to perform well because it was an Olympic season, I was also just so excited that I was finally getting the results I knew I was capable of.
It all came down to our final Qualifier in Turkey before we found out the four riders that had made the team. I received a text from my head coach asking to meet in his hotel room and the suspense was final over, he told me, “Congrats man, you are going to the Olympics!” Finally I knew the hard work had paid off and my dream was coming true, I was going to be an Olympian.
What was it like to be in the 2018 Olympics?
When I first arrived in South Korea, reality started to set in about what a big accomplishment this was. There were so many things that I will never forget that made the experience so exciting. The team processing, where we were outfitted with more team USA gear than I could have ever imagined. Meeting so many other athletes in the village, some that I’ve followed and looked up to for a long time. Hearing “United States of America” announced at opening ceremonies then walking out in front of the world, representing our country. These moments made my Olympic dream become a reality.
Now it was time to race! After a couple of fun training days on the massive track, I was feeling ready for the big show. On race day, the snow had sped up on the course, making some of the jumps really difficult to not overshoot. After I rode really well in my first heat, I started to feel the confidence building. I knew I could have a good day on this course. In the next couple rounds, the carnage began!
The track kept getting faster which caused riders to start crashing left and right. I had advanced through 2 heats and now I was in the semi-final. The heat started and I was in great position after the start section. Coming into the second turn, I felt a big shove from behind. One of the German athletes lost control, grabbed my jersey, and pushed me right before a large roller into turn 2. The next thing I knew, I was airborne and upside down. I struck the ground violently on my back in the middle of turn 2. I thought my day was over; my first thought was that I broke my back. I finally caught my breath, stood up, and realized that I could still move okay. I was in a lot of pain but I knew I had to finish the course. I jumped back on the track and made my way down.
After the fourth turn, I noticed that there were 3 of the other racers that had also crashed. I passed the final rider that was down and continued my way across the finish line. The crowd roared! I had made it to the gold medal final round of the Olympics. I couldn’t believe it! I was still in a lot of pain from the crash but it all disappeared when I stepped into the gate for the final.
The final is still bitter to think about, I got caught up in a crash with two other riders half way down the course. I was able to get back up and finish 5th place. Although it wasn’t an Olympic medal, it still felt amazing to know that I had given it my all and made it to that Olympic final. Then I finally had the chance to see my family and friends that had made the trip to Korea to watch me. The tears flowed heavy and the hugs were endless. It was such an amazing feeling to see how proud my family and friends were. That moment felt like the final culmination of so many years of hard work to make that dream come true, it was the best feeling ever. Even though I didn’t get a medal, it felt like I did.
How did you feel before your race? After?
The days leading into the race were full of emotions. I was so excited to compete in the biggest event in my career, but it was also terrifying. Not terrifying in a bad way. Just knowing that I was about to represent my country in front of the whole world watching; and all the hard work I had put in my whole life to get to this point would culminate in one race day, that was a bit terrifying. However, once the race day finally arrived, I felt calm. It was still the same sport that I have been competing in for most of my life. I knew what I had to do. Once I was on that course, I felt comfortable.
The race came and went and now I was finally able to celebrate with my family and friends. Something about the Olympics, the whole experience, is so emotional. I’m not sure if I’ve ever cried so many tears of joy. Being able to hug my Mom, Dad, and sister afterward. That was the best moment of my Olympic experience. I had a huge feeling of relief. Knowing that all my hard work had paid off, I could hold my head high feeling proud that I gave it my best.
How did Sweetwood help you fuel for your events?
There is nothing better than having the best fuel to keep your body going when you are trying to perform at your highest level. Sweetwood jerky is exactly that. The pure protein and quality beef is the best snack to give your body that energy it needs to operate like a machine. Not to mention it is the best tasting jerky around! No matter what kind of activity I’m doing, I have some Sweetwood jerky with me to keep my body going.
Where did you go after the Olympics?
After the Olympics, I had a nice two-week break back home in Steamboat to unwind and recharge. Then it was time for one more race, World Cup finals in Veysonnaz, Switzerland. I have always loved that event and have been fast there before, but never earned the result I was hoping for. This year was different.
After qualifying second, I was feeling confident for the final. It was a crazy day of racing with a lot of tight battles, but at the end, I did it! I stepped onto my second World Cup podium in 2nd place!
It was the perfect end to a great season and the best way to fuel the fire for next year. This winter has left me hungry for more, and I’m already excited for next year.