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Sugar House Journal

Olympian skier to speak at Best Friends Utah

Oct 14, 2019 15h15 ● By Jenniffer Wardell

Holly Flanders at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. (Photo courtesy Holly Flanders)

By Jenniffer Wardell | [email protected]

Lessons learned on the slopes can help shape the rest of your life. 

That’s the message of Holly Flanders, a former World Cup downhill ski racer who went on to ski at the Olympics. She’ll share her insights during a breakfast presentation Oct. 3 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Best Friends Utah (2005 S. 1100 East). The event, sponsored by Best Friends Animal Society and the Sugar House Chamber of Commerce, will highlight how insights Flanders learned during her skiing career can help anyone achieve success. 

“I want to inspire people to be the very best they can,” she said. “They’ll have the opportunity to get to the next level in their life, up their game, get focused on what they want to do, get clear and get inspired.” 

She knows firsthand how difficult that journey can be. 

“When I was 18, a ski coach commented that I skied like ‘a bag of bolts’ during a ski race,” she said. “I went on to win three World Cups.” 

It’s a level of success even a young Flanders didn’t know she’d reach. As a child in New Hampshire, skiing was simply a common weekend activity for her family. They decided together to join the local ski club and go to races, and it was actually an older sister who first decided she wanted to become a professional skier. 

“She paved the way, and I just kept doing everything she was doing,” she said.  

She went on to win two World Cups in 1982 and one in 1984, also participating in both the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. She retired in 1986 because of the physical demands of the sport, and went on to raise a family and experience a number of different careers. 

As the years passed, however, she realized that she had things to say about her time as a skier. 

“I wanted to share some of the lessons I’d learned with people,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve been able to kind of formulate the ideas in a way that relates to a lot of people and a lot of different circumstances.” 

Though it’s a significantly different career than the one she started out with, Flanders said that there are some key parallels between public speaking and her time as a professional skier.  

“I had to have the confidence to know I could do both, because I always start out as the underdog,” she said. “I’m not a natural-born speaker, the same way I wasn’t a natural-born skier. I had to work for every step I made.” 

Just as she did on the slopes, she also said that she faced plenty of challenges along the way. 

“Skiing is much harder physically, but public speaking is much harder mentally and emotionally,” she said. “Public speaking is one of the biggest fears people have. It’s challenging every single time you do it, because you want to have a positive impact on people. The fear is always that they won’t get anything out of it.” 

Though she and her family still ski for pleasure, Flanders also routinely goes mountain biking. With the need to constantly focus ahead and control your direction and balance through small shifts of your body, she said that it’s a good complement to skiing.

“It provides the excitement I used to have from downhill skiing,” she said. Then she laughed. “I don’t go very fast, though. I’m over that part.” 

These days, she gets her real thrills from reaching out to the community. 

“I’m just really excited to inspire and motivate people,” she said. “It’s what makes me happy now.” 

A light continental breakfast will be served. Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased online