Ticket to Fly: Ski Jumping & Nordic Combined Podcast

Logan Sankey got her start as a young girl skiing alpine at Steamboat, coloring in every run she skied on a trail map. But when she found ski jumping, she was hooked. Today, she's a veteran of the Youth Olympic Games, Junior World Championships and a rising leader on the USA Nordic national team. Host Peter Graves talks to Sankey about her career, the team dynamic and the heart surgery she went through just two years ago.

Show Notes

Logan Sankey is just 22, but wise beyond her years. Since competing in the Youth Olympic Games at Lillehammer in 2016, she’s made the jump out of juniors, gotten through heart surgery and is making her way into the World Cup, traveling the world with the U.S. Women’s Ski Jumping Team.

She was born in Denver and dad had her on skis at age two. Soon it was up into the mountains every weekend (she skied every run on Steamboat’s Mt. Werner when she was six), eventually moving to Steamboat Springs when she was 12.

Sankey shared her life story on the Heartbeat podcast with Peter Graves, talking everything from capital cities of the world to knitting. Here’s a sample from the podcast. Subscribe to Heartbeat to hear more.

How are you coping with COVID-19?
As athletes, we've kind of always been working from home because you're always cooking meals and doing more and stretching and working on stuff outside of the gym since you really do live your job as an athlete. So in some ways, things haven't changed too much, but we definitely have had to get super creative without some workouts, especially at the beginning when we couldn't go to the gym at all and we couldn't go to the gym. So definitely some fun core workouts, some interesting balance activities, the things you just had lying around the house. But really, the shift has been more about the distance between athletes and coaches and also a lot more distance between the next time we actually compete, because, like you said, we're not actually sure when that's going to be.

Are you still a local in Steamboat?
Sometimes I joke that it makes what could be a super quick trip to the grocery store take 45 minutes because you run into six people that you know, but especially after traveling all over the world and competing, which can definitely sometimes be very isolating. It's so nice to come back to a town and a community and place where you really know that there are people who care about you and that community supports both me and all sorts of other athletes. 

What first got you into ski jumping?
When I was an alpine skier, we would use the ski jump at Howelsen Hill to just practice for downhill training because in alpine skiing, when you go off a jump, you don't want to be in the air very long. You want to press and get down to the ground as fast as you can, because that's a lot faster. And so in alpine, we would practice pressing off the end of the ski jump so we would have more body control in the air. But we had a super awesome coach and he would always let us just send it on our last two of the session whenever we got to practice on the jump. So we would just get to jump as far as we could on our last two of the training. And I thought that was so fun. And that is what kind of inspired me to. After that, I was invited to the first ever Fly Girls camp. And after spending the whole summer jumping In Park City, that's when I decided to make the switch full time to do jumping and kind of put alpine just as a fun recreational thing and commit my competitive aspect towards jumping. And I think I was 16 at the time, which is definitely kind of late by most standards. But I'm really glad that I made that decision to switch.

Are you fearful ski jumping?
I used to just say, no, no, I'm never scared because I thought, like, that was what all ski jumpers said, that they just had no fear and could just blow themselves off the jump. But as I've gotten older and have done more reflecting, I think that if you really say that you've never been scared while jumping, I think I think you got to be lying because there are some times when the conditions are funky or maybe you've just watched one of your teammates fall, but you still have to compete.

When a ‘routine’ hip surgery led you to heart surgery, did you ever think your career was over?
I don't think I ever entertained that thought, even for a little bit because of injury. I think all of the doctors I worked with and my coaches were all pretty supportive and motivating to be like, yeah, this is no problem, girl. You're going to get the surgery. You're going to do the rehab. We know you're going to put in the work that you have to do and then you're going to be fine. You're going to come back stronger. You're going to be better than ever. And I think in a lot of ways that's true because I don't have pain in my hip anymore. And, you know, my heart's not going to be an issue. 

Now that you’re on the national team, do you see yourself as more of a role model?
It's really important that all those young girls who are doing two or three sports like I was as a kid, see girls having fun in the sport that they might want to continue in  - not just having fun, but being successful and and pushing boundaries and furthering the sport in general so that they say I really love ski jumping, and there is a future here for me and I can see myself doing what Logan's doing.

Do you define success by gold, silver or bronze?
That's a good question, because when all is said and done, the things on the scoresheet, the things that are on paper are just what place you are in and whether you won or maybe you lost. While it's very easy to say I didn't succeed here because I didn't win or my goal was to be top five and I was seven, so this is an unsuccessful event. I think a lot of athletics is so much about what you take away from it and what you learn about yourself as an athlete and a person. 

What about the importance of teammates?
Having teammates you get along with is such an important part of sports that is often taken for granted. You spend literally all day, every day with your teammates, working out together, eating together, rooming together. So it is so Important to have those team dynamics, especially if everyone's getting on each other's nerves and no one's going to be in a good mood, which can definitely end up affecting performance. Part of that is just spending more time together and getting to know each other more. It’s figuring out which buttons not to press and knowing each team as individuals, especially because we didn't all grow up together, because we're all from different parts of the country. I know that my teammates have my back and I hope they know that I've always got their back to.

Logan, do you know, the capital of Belarus?
Yeah, it's Minsk.

Watch for Logan Sankey on the women’s World Cup tour this winter. And listen to the full version of her podcast with Peter Graves on Heartbeat: The USA Nordic Podcast, available on all podcast platforms.

What is Ticket to Fly: Ski Jumping & Nordic Combined Podcast?

The explosiveness of ski jumping, with athletes launching off a towering scaffold and soaring like a bird through the air. The aerobic energy of cross country skiing, with skiers powering up steep hills and accelerating on thin edge down sweeping turns in a head-to-head battle to the finish line. This is Ticket to Fly, the international ski jumping and nordic combined podcast. Each episode will take you inside the international world of ski jumping and nordic combined, bringing you into the start house and up close with the stars of the sport, hosted by noted nordic commentator Peter Graves.