From Russia With Gold: Lauren Anderson Shares Daughter’s Olympic Journey
Lauren Anderson, the mother of U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson celebrates with fans after Jamie Anderson won the women's snowboard slopestyle final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Jamie Anderson of the United States takes a jump on her first run in the women's snowboard slopestyle final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Jamie Anderson of the United States, center, celebrates with silver medalist Enni Rukajarvi of Finland, left, and bronze medalist Jenny Jones of Britain, after Anderson won the women's snowboard slopestyle final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Hartland — Lauren Anderson has always fancied herself a calm and laid back person. But when it came time for the 59-year old Hartland resident to watch her daughter, Jamie, vie for a gold medal last month in the first-ever women’s slopestyle event at the Sochi Olympics in Russia, Mom’s disposition was re-positioned.
“All of a sudden, I was really nervous,” Anderson told a Hartland Public Library audience of 15 last week during a slide show and discussion about her experiences as an Olympian’s mother. “My teeth were chattering. It was like, ‘Get a grip!’ ”
Jamie, 23, soon helped transform Mom’s nervousness into sheer elation. In just fifth place entering the final round following a so-so opening run, the South Lake Tahoe, Calif., native was virtually flawless when it counted most. In a sport emphasizing tough tricks and soaring amplitude off rails and jumps, Anderson deftly negotiated the technically demanding rail section at the top of the course before dazzling on the jump section.
Anderson’s first jump featured a 720-degree turn and front-side grab. The second showed off a switchback 540 with another grab. On the make-or-break third jump, Anderson executed another front-side 720, totaling 5 1/2 turns and a pair of fancy grabs to earn gold.
When Anderson’s final score was announced — 95.5, 2.75 better than silver medalist Enni Rukajavari, of Finland — Mom dropped to her knees. The best part of it all was that she was able to share the elation with six of her children and other friends who had made it to Russia and joined in the celebration.
“It was outrageously cool,” Lauren Anderson said to the Hartland Library audience. “For it to be the first (Olympic women’s slopestyle) and to have her win it was, and is, incredibly meaningful.”
Vermont born, Lauren Anderson was raised near New London, Conn., before spending 35 years in the Lake Tahoe area — raising eight children, including Jamie, along the way — before settling on an alfalfa farm in Hartland last year, in part to be closer to her parents.
She didn’t get much up-close time with her daughter immediately following the victory, thanks to a podium ceremony and media blitzkrieg that lasted hours.
Later, in the Team USA village in front of a private gathering of about 100, Jamie was asked to take the floor and present a medal of honor. She chose her mom, who’s been a single parent since 2001 and home-schooled many of her children.
“She thinks of me as her life coach, which is such an honor,” said Lauren Anderson. “They asked me to take the floor, and all I could say was that I was so proud of the person she is today. But I also echoed a principle that Jamie believes in, which is that we’re all champions of our own lives.
“You know, I love all of my kids so much and here is one on this pinnacle, but they’re all champions. It was a very heart-warming moment.”
When Lauren finally got her daughter one-on-one, she asked her how she could have possibly stayed focused on such a difficult course with so much at stake.
“She said, ‘Mom, I had to do it for everyone and everything that ever supported me,’ ” Lauren Anderson said. “ ‘For my family and friends, for the mountain (Sierra Mountain at Lake Tahoe), for the fans, the sponsors, everything that got me to this day.’ ”
Jamie began snowboarding at age 9, spending as much time as possible on her hometown mountain. As home-schooled students, time in the “classroom” for Jamie and her siblings could be scarce.
“We didn’t have, like, a separate room in the house for the classroom, which I know a lot of home-schooled homes have,” Anderson said. “I didn’t force a lot of reading and writing on them, and I got some criticism for it.”
The kids’ grandparents were known to ask the kids to read out loud to test their literacy, Lauren Anderson said. “My kids never had any trouble reading, though. They were smart kids. They always wanted to learn, and they picked up so much. But they learned more on the mountain than they ever would have in the classroom.”
Jamie and her older sister, Joanie, also got really good at snowboarding. By the time Jamie was 13, both were competing in various touring circuits, highlighted in 2007 when both won X-Games gold medals. Joanie Anderson, a boardercross specialist, later landed on the U.S. Snowboarding team and was on track for a potential spot in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. But a 2009 hip injury and other factors led to her retirement before the 2010 trials.
“She dislocated her hip, and decided it was time to step away for a number of reasons,” Lauren Anderson said. “She didn’t like all of the politics involved.”
For similar reasons, Jamie Anderson has resisted joining the roster of USSA-sanctioned U.S. Snowboarding, instead choosing to compete independently and garner her own sponsorship.
“She still represented the USA at the Olympics, just not as part of the U.S. Snowboarding team,” Lauren Anderson said. “(U.S. Snowboarding) wasn’t happy about it, but it’s her choice.”
Lauren Anderson thoroughly enjoyed her time in Russia, staying at a hotel in the Adler district of Sochi for the first part of the trip before being put up on a cruise ship.
“There was a lot of security everywhere, but it was beautiful walking around. It’s a busy city and a sub-tropical climate,” the mom said. “We got to watch dolphins while we were eating breakfast.”
There were plenty of stray dogs, Anderson said, but they weren’t a bother. “It was amazing. Every single one of them was happy and friendly,” she said.
During a question-and-answer period with the audience, someone asked if she’d caught a glimpse of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Not directly, but I saw an entourage of people with black suits. If they weren’t surrounding him, it was someone else important.”
Anderson’s youngest daughter, 16-year-old Nora, handled last week’s presentation, sifting through digital photographs on a projector before queuing up a video clip of Jamie’s championship-clinching run.
Someone asked Nora, “What’s it like having an Olympic gold medalist for a sister?”
Nora Anderson, a Hanover High sophomore, smiled coyly before replying. “It’s pretty awesome, but it’s also kind of strange,” she said. “When it’s all said and done, she’s still just my sister.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.