ST. GEORGE – Two-time Olympian, Noelle Pikus-Pace, addressed a packed room at the Dixie Convention Center on Thursday. Part of the “What’s Up Down South” economic summit, the Winter Games athlete and skeleton silver medalist entertained and inspired the crowd with stories of her success and her trials.
The sport of skeleton sees athletes steer a small sled, weighing approximately 65 pounds that Pikus-Pace described as looking akin to a cookie sheet, down a 1-mile stretch of frozen track. The skeleton pilot lies face-first on the sled with their chin only an inch from the ice, navigating the course while pulling up to 6 Gs, Pikus-Pace said in her speech.
It is a dangerous sport and in 2005, leading up to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Pikus-Pace was the top in the world. But Pikus-Pace’s Olympic dreams were crushed when a 4-man bobsled crashed into her and sent her flying about 25 feet, Pikus-Pace said.
The accident resulted in surgery for Pikus-Pace and a lost opportunity to go to the Olympics. Pikus-Pace told attendees in the room Thursday that she remembers sitting in her hospital room and having the realization that her Olympic dream was gone and beginning to cry.
Pikus-Pace’s comeback story is now the stuff of Olympic legend, but it might not have been so were it not for the sage advice of one of her doctors who caught her crying, she said. The doctor asked her bluntly why she was crying.
“You have two choices,” she said the doctor told her. “You can either look back and be upset and frustrated and angry about what just happened to you or you can choose to move forward. Your leg is broken and crying is not going to fix it.”
Pikus-Pace said she admits that not very many people will end up being skeleton racers flying down the ice at excessive speeds; but from her positive and negative experiences of an ultimately triumphant journey, she could offer words of wisdom for sport, business and life.
Besides being an Olympic athlete, Pikus-Pace is a motivational speaker, author, business owner and mother of two. Her success, however, did not come overnight. Pikus-Pace stressed the importance of goal setting, adding that she writes down three goals for herself daily.
The goals vary, she said, from business to personal to family goals and at the end of each day she assesses how successful she was in accomplishing those goals.
Pikus-Pace related the importance of goal-setting to steering a skeleton sled, noting that where you look, where you focus, is where your sled will go.
“Where you look is where you go,” she said.
Her story resonated with attendees who could see real-life value in the lessons she taught.
“I found her comments to be very inspiring, very insightful,” Michael Day, a shareholder with the law firm of Durham, Jones and Pinegar, said, “and I think she taught us some principles and reminded us of some principles that are applicable in every day life.”
Michael Wiest of Jubilee Realty was so inspired he said he hopes to see a movie made of Pikus-Pace’s story, adding that the goal-setting Pikus-Pace talked about is so critical to business success.
Pikus-Pace urged people to create “smart” goals which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based.
Keep moving forward
When Pikus-Pace finally did make her Olympic debut in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010, she went to her coach seeking advice about how to make it all come together when it really counts.
Though his advice wasn’t the grand revelation she was hoping for, Pikus-Pace said, her coach did tell her something that was important; he told her that the the journey always has been and always will be about putting one foot in front of the other.
He stressed being process focused, Pikus-Pace said, so that his athletes would not get caught up in the distractions and instead concentrate on each 1-mile stretch of track.
Surround yourself with good people
“It takes a team to make any company successful,” Pikus-Pace said, adding that she would not have gotten as far as she did without being surrounded by good people who told her that she had a choice to keep going.
When Pikus-Pace took the silver medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, she said, the only thing she could think of or wanted to say was, “we did it.”
A Utah resident, Pikus-Pace was happy to be in St. George, she said, expressing her love to her state and her gratitude for being able to speak to the crowd.
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