From the islands to Idaho — to the Olympics

Sun Valley resident will make her debut in the Games on Tuesday.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comFebruary 17, 2014 

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Jasmine Campbell learned to ski in Sun Valley and is representing her native U.S. Virgin Islands in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Jasmine Campbell grew up listening to her dad’s stories of skiing in the 1992 Winter Olympics for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

For the first 10 years, it was an abstract idea. She was born on snow-less St. John in the Virgin Islands. The family lived there until she was 7 and in Puerto Rico for the next three years.

But when the Campbells relocated to Hailey and Jasmine quickly took to her parents’ sport on the Sun Valley slopes, the idea of following in her dad’s footsteps became real.

“Even though I had been living in the U.S. for a while, a very big part of me felt like the Virgin Islands was my real home,” she said. “I always thought the opportunity to get to represent them would just be so cool.”

Jasmine, 22, carried the Virgin Islands flag in the Opening Ceremony and is scheduled to compete in the giant slalom Tuesday and the slalom Friday.

She took a break from school at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., and traveled as far as China to enter International Ski Federation (FIS) races that helped her meet the Olympic qualifying criteria. She also needed to beat one other skier who pursued the spot offered to the Virgin Islands.

John Campbell, Jasmine’s dad, walked with her in the Opening Ceremony as her coach.

“It was an incredible experience doing it 22 years ago,” John said from Russia. “… I’ve told my kids how great of an experience it was, but this time around, getting to do it with my wife and my daughter, is even better. The Olympic Games are really an extraordinary event.”

John and his wife, Jennifer, grew up in the Northeast. They were living in the Virgin Islands when they heard the U.S. territory in the Caribbean had a ski team.

The Campbells joined and both might have skied in the 1992 Olympics, but Jennifer became pregnant. Jasmine was born in August of 1991.

John competed in the slalom, giant slalom and super-G in 1992 in Albertville, France.

During the qualification process, the Campbells went to Sun Valley to compete in six FIS races in six days.

“I had never been to Sun Valley before,” John said. “Not only did we have fun racing, but we thought it was the best place to live ever. We said, ‘If we ever move away from the islands, let’s move to Sun Valley.’

“When our kids were getting to be high school age, we decided that we’d prefer to have them go to school in the States somewhere. That’s why we relocated to Hailey. … It was a direct result of the Olympic adventure.”

The move to Idaho served as Jasmine’s introduction to skiing.

“My dad chucked my brother and I into a pair of skis and told us to figure it out, which I loved,” she said. “I definitely prefer French fries (skis pointed down the hill) over pizza mode. I really loved skiing. I was so attracted to the speed, the exhilaration, the challenge.”

She developed into one of the top high school skiers in the country, John said. But a combination of soccer, skiing and weight training mangled Jasmine’s back midway through high school. She spent a month in a plastic brace, quit skiing and transferred to Verde Valley School in Sedona, Ariz., for boarding school.

“I thought I had given it up for good,” Jasmine said. “It was a really tough year that junior year, before I went to boarding school.”

At Whitman, a friend suggested she join the club ski team. She’d been off the snow for two years.

“I gave it a whirl and instantly fell back in love with it,” she said. “It was very serendipitous and really overwhelming to realize that my dream of skiing could be rekindled.”

She began serious training about a year and a half ago and increased the intensity last summer. She’ll return to Whitman in the fall as a senior pursuing a double major in philosophy and psychology — and with quite a story to tell.

“Any parent’s going to want to have their kids enjoy really an interesting, positive, insightful and rich life experience,” John said. “I was really encouraged and excited when she said she wanted to do it. I’m even more excited that she’s actually done it.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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