She just got back from South Korea. She heads out soon to her next competition.
But Julia Marino — Westport’s US Olympic snowboard team star — will be in Westport this weekend.
So let’s party!
Daly Method — the chiropractic, sports rehabilitation and wellness center at 272 Post Road East, opposite the Playhouse Square shopping center — is hosting a “meet and greet” with and for Julia this Saturday (March 3, 4-6 p.m.).
Everyone is invited.
Come as you are. But if you’ve got red, white and blue — wear it with pride!
But after fighting off a disappointing fall in the slopestyle competition, and illness last week, Julia Marino is close to her longtime dream: an Olympic medal.
The Westport snowboarder was 2nd after her first big air run yesterday, then finished 9th overall in qualifying competition. That earned her one of 12 spots in Thursday’s final.
Julia’s jumps — shown around the world — were preceded a day earlier by a special NBC report on her long friendship with Chaihyun Kim. Their journey together began at Long Lots Elementary School, and ended in South Korea.
They met in Long Lots Elementary School kindergarten, and for the next 3 years were inseparable.
They went their separate ways later, as kids do. But — as Julia became a US Olympic team snowboarder, and Chai a pre-med student at Yale University — their friendship endured.
Chai and Julia, age 6.
As Julia got ready to head to PyeongChang for the Winter Games, Chai and her family used their South Korean contacts to help Julia’s family find lodging and tickets.
It’s exactly the type of story NBC loves. Many Olympic viewers are casual — or even non — sports fans. By showcasing athletes’ back stories, the network hopes those viewers will be drawn into the drama of sports.
Area residents can tune in at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday, February 17, WNBC-TV Channel 4) for Julia and Chai’s story on “The Olympic Zone.” NBC stations around the country will also air the show; check local listings for time.
That segment should whet viewers’ appetites for Julia’s big air competition. It begins Monday (Sunday, US time).
Westport is justly proud of Julia Marino. Now — thanks to NBC Sports — the rest of the country knows why.
The network has given a shout-out to the Olympic snowboarder — and her family — in a widely viewed video.
She was interviewed, along with her parents John and Elaine, and sister Cece. Though her hometown was never mentioned, NBC showed clips of her riding her bike, trampolining, and at the beach.
The theme of the video was that Julia’s parents gave her a chance to take risks, dare and dream — in a “relatively safe environment.” For example, she was allowed to ride her scooter in the house (though other parents could not believe that was okay).
“She’s always done it her way,” Elaine says.
This weekend, Julia fell on her first slopestyle run. She was not alone: 41 of 50 athletes did the same. A controversy ensued over the wisdom of allowing the event to be held in high winds.
She finished 6th overall.
Next up: the big air event, next Sunday.
(Click here to see the full NBC Sports video. Hat tip: Kathie Bennewitz)
The other day, “06880” reported that Julia Marino made the US Olympic snowboard team. In a few days, she heads to PyeongChang, South Korea.
Yet there’s more to the story than just excitement that a Westporter has a chance for international stardom.
A decade and a half ago, Julia and Chaihyun Kim met on the first day of Long Lots Elementary School kindergarten. Chai had just moved to the US, with her mother and 2 sisters. She did not speak a word of English.
But she and Julia became best friends. For the next 3 years, they were inseparable. Chai’s mother worked every Saturday at a dry cleaner, so Julia’s mother Elaine picked Chai up. They played in soccer and basketball leagues, and in their spare time did whatever little kids do.
Chai and Julia, age 6.
Chai moved to Wilton from age 9 to 11, but came back to attend Bedford Middle School and Staples High. She graduated in 2015, and is now a pre-med junior at Yale University.
Julia attended St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, and traveled far and wide on the snowboard tour. But the girls kept in touch.
In December 2016, Elaine ran into Chai. The proud mother mentioned that Julia might qualify for the Olympics.
Julia Marino heads to the Olympics
Chai said that her father still lives in Seoul. She said her family would be happy to help with Olympic planning.
They sure did. In May — through the Korean-resident lottery — they got Elaine’s family tickets to the opening ceremony and Julia’s events, a savings of at least $2,000.
Over the summer, Chai’s family traveled to PyeongChang to film several lodging options. The Marinos had worried it would be difficult to house their large group of relatives and friends in one location. The videos confirmed it.
So Chai’s father spoke with a friend who owns 2 vacation apartments in Gangneung. They’d never rented them to anyone — let alone to foreigners — but thanks to Mr. Kim, the Marinos are leasing both modern 3-bedroom, 2-bath apartments.
They know what they look like too, because Chai filmed last summer, when she was in South Korea.
Mr. Kim drafted a rental agreement, and translated it into English. He also arranged all their transportation in South Korea.
The Marinos reimbursed him — and bought tickets for Chai and him to attend Julia’s events. “It’s the least we could do!” Elaine says.
So next month Elaine, 5 aunts, 3 uncles, 5 cousins and Julia’s sister Cece head to to the Olympics.
This may not qualify as one of NBC’s famous “Up Close and Personal” Olympic stories.
But for the Marino family, South Korea is a journey they could never make alone.
BONUS NEWS: Last weekend at the X Games, Julia won a silver medal in slopestyle.
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