Asit Rathod knows Mount Hood.
Jacqueline Wiles soared through the ranks of ski racing from the Mount Hood Mitey Mites to the Sochi Olympics, but when the U.S. Ski Teams were announced last month in Colorado, she didn't make the cut for the fully funded A team.
The 2015-16 U.S. Alpine team was packed with stars like gold medalists Mikaela Shiffrin, Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn, but for whatever reason more men were selected than women. Being selected for the "B" squad meant limited support for the traveling and living expenses required for World Cup competition. It was a devastating result for Wiles, who has won the U.S. downhill championships in Colorado twice and finished in the top 20 in World Cup races in Europe, not to mention 26th in an Olympic downhill.
Enter Lindsey Vonn, the most successful woman racer in World Cup history. Vonn announced her decision to personally sponsor her teammate through Facebook on December 3:
Proud and excited to announce my personal sponsorship of my teammate and friend Jacqueline Wiles! Jacque needed funding to continue to follow her dreams on the World Cup tour and I was honored to help. In return, Jacque will be the first ever Lindsey Vonn Foundation ambassador, spreading our message and helping empower girls! Thanks Jacque for being such a good role model for the next generation! Let's kick butt this weekend!! #GoLVF #GirlPower
Wiles responded with a stellar 17th-place finish in the downhill at Lake Louise, which was won by Vonn — along with pretty much every other major World Cup speed-event race for women this season.
Jacqueline Wiles, a 2010 graduate of Canby High School, grew up racing on Mount Hood and chasing her older brother Steele all over the mountain. She started skiing at age two, racing at five, and stood out early for her ability and confidence. At the age of 13 she joined the White Pass Ski Club famous for developing great Pacific Northwest racers such as Phil and Steve Mahre. She also trained every summer on Mount Hood, and as she matured she mixed motorcycle riding and wakeboarding into her regimen, along with serious weight lifting.
When she was selected to compete in the 2014 Olympics along with Vonn, Shiffrin and other legends of the sport, she posted:
"Words can't even describe how I feel right now. To think a year ago I wasn't even on the US Ski Team, to now be going to the Olympics is unreal! I have so many people to thank who have helped me along this journey! To all the coaches, trainers and friends who supported me throughout the ups and downs. Most importantly my family for their unconditional love. I could not have done it without all of you. This sure validates all those post graduate years I took off to pursue this dream I've had since I was little. It proves to me that if you truly work hard and believe in yourself anything is possible. Thanks to everyone who helped contribute to funding my season. I appreciate all the love and support. It means the world to me and it will be an honor representing our country!!!! USA!!!!"
Vonn, who recently won her record 71st World Cup race, set up her Lindsey Vonn Foundation this year to empower young women’s growth as athletes and individuals. She said she was "honored to help" Wiles by providing the necessary resources to travel and compete on the World Cup circuit.
Wiles reflected the good will by posting a prominent Thank You on Instagram, with some choice hashtags: "I'm inspired and thrilled being apart of the #lindseyvonnfoundation #believe #empowermentthroughsport #girlpower."