Yuki Tsubota is Sochi-bound after posting a top-five result in the final Olympic qualifying event over the weekend.
The local skier placed fifth in the second of two women's slopestyle competitions held over Friday and Saturday (Jan. 17 and 18) at Park City, Utah, helping her to an Olympic team nomination. The first 20 of 26 freestyle skiers selected to Canada's freestyle ski team were revealed on Monday (Jan. 20) in Montreal.
"I don't know if it's really sunk in or hit me yet," Tsubota said Sunday (Jan. 19) from Aspen, Colo., where she'll be competing in the Winter X Games later this week.
"This has definitely been a dream of mine since I was pretty young. When Jenn Heil won in Torino (in 2006), that was when I realized I wanted to go to the Olympics, but back then I was hoping to for moguls, but things have changed."
Tsubota was one of four skiers named to Canada's first-ever Olympic slopestyle squad, joining Kaya Turski, Dara Howell and Kim Lamarre on the team. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand will be Canada's lone male competitor in ski slopestyle.
Tsubota, who turns 20 just days before the opening ceremonies in Sochi, said her recent results played a role in her selection, as she had also earned a fifth-place finish at Breckenridge, Colo., in a World Cup contest the previous week. She earned a ninth-place result in Friday's contest from Park City.
"To be honest, I've been stressing pretty hard for the last few weeks," she said. "The first two contests I did (this winter) went pretty bad.
"But that fifth in Breckenridge a couple of weeks ago made me feel better."
Tsubota said she learned after Saturday's competition that she was "pretty much locked in" for a spot at the Games.
"I talked to both my mom and dad (Saturday) and a couple friends," she said. "They were really excited."
Tsubota's rapid rise through the ranks of slopestyle skiing has been nothing short of remarkable.
A moguls skier who switched disciplines during the 2011-12 season, she burst onto the slopestyle scene with a podium at the World Skiing Invitational in Whistler at the end of that winter, helping her to a place on the national team. Tsubota then captured silver medal at the Dew Cup in December 2012, her first event of the Olympic qualifying period, and has remained a consistent performer ever since. She's currently ranked sixth in women's slopestyle on the AFP World Tour.
Tsubota said just being able to put clean runs together is what has made the difference for her over the last three events following her struggles at early-season contests.
"I know if I put down a run I can do well, so that's the biggest thing for me," she said.
As she looks ahead to Sochi next month, Tsubota said she's not going to be putting too high of expectations on herself.
"I don't like that pressure," she laughed. "Just going to the Games is a big thing for me. But for sure, the podium is where I want to be."
This week's X Games will be the final competition before the Olympics. She said she's worked some switch takeoffs into her run while finding recent success, but won't be trying to up the progression of her tricks too much for the season's two biggest events.
Tsubota will get a chance to come home for a few days before the Olympics and spend time with some of her biggest supporters.
"I'd just like to thank everybody in the whole community and everyone that's been there for me since Day 1," she said. "My family and my friends have had a huge impact on everything I've done."