From Canadian World Cup alpine ski racer to motivator and public speaker, Larisa Yurkiw is a force to be reckoned with. The 28-year-old athlete from Ontario has accomplished a lot in her lifetime already, from partaking in the 2014 Sochi Olympics to also being on four World Cup podiums. She recently announced her retirement from professional skiing after her most successful year of competition. I had the chance to chat with her about her career thus far and also what’s next for her.
1) What first got you interested in downhill skiing and when did you realize that this was something you could pursue more seriously?
I have two older brothers I chased around the ski hill from a young age. The norm gets thrown out the window so I was fairly fearless. I did my first race was I was 4 and the passion grew with the intensity.
2) 2016 has been a great competing year for you but you recently announced your retirement after 10 years in the competitive circuit. Why was this the right time for you to hang up your skis?
Health has the final say. I had my 5th knee surgery in May and I felt it was a decision between racing 20 more international races or skiing with my kids one day. I was becoming more successful and finished my career ranked 3rd in the world so I no longer had unfinished business. It was that hunger that drove me for so long so I knew it was time to find the same drive in a different direction.
3) How has the transition from athlete to being an entrepreneur been going? What are some of your career goals moving forward?
I love this new life. I have found a career that gives me a bit of an adrenaline rush still, motivational speaking, and I continue to find challenges for myself. I took time off initially but realized quickly that I’m meant to have both a structure and a serious set of goals.
4) Can you talk to us about Team Larisa and if you will be continuing to pursue this in the future?
Team Larisa was the name of my team. I was skiing for Canada independently but, by the end, the Team was made up of thousands of Canadians and Europeans, both skiers and non-skiers. I will continue to promote bravery and share the power of vulnerability and resilience with the story of Team Larisa wherever I can. It became so much more than ski racing for me so if I can use it as a vehicle to help young and old alike to just get a bit more comfortable with being uncomfortable, then Team Larisa has successfully lived on.
5) What is the best advice you’ve ever been given and how has it helped you as an athlete and in life today?
Advice came from so many but most consistently, to keep on keeping on. The setbacks were the most consistent event throughout my journey so learning to fight on and get creative with my resilience allowed me to ultimately be world class in my sport. Without a constant fight and high self-belief, the very first obstacle would’ve bounced me in a completely different direction. “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” Mexican Proverb.