Olympic gold medalist to speak Wednesday

Nikki Stone discusses 'The Turtle Effect,' overcoming adversity

Posted: Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A former Olympic aerial skier will speak Wednesday about overcoming adversity and taking risks to achieve life goals.

Nikki Stone, the third and final speaker at Glacier Valley Rotary Club's 18th annual Pillars of America Speaker Series, will discuss her skiing career and how perseverance helped her win a gold medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. She speaks at noon Wednesday at Centennial Hall.

"I want to talk to people about adversity and the importance of understanding that you don't have to be victim," Stone said. "(I want to teach people about) taking risks to reach their goals, staying committed and focused on what they're doing, building confidence and finding the teamwork and people to help support them on their path."

In Nagano, Stone was America's first-ever Olympic champion in the sport of inverted aerial skiing. What made her performance incredible was that less than two years earlier, chronic injury prevented her from standing or walking, much less skiing off a 12-foot wall of snow that launches aerialists five stories into the air.

Ten different doctors told Stone that due to the unrecoverable damage to two spinal discs, she may never ski again.

"It was devastating," Stone said. "... Basically I was losing my job."

Nevertheless, Stone fought back to reach an Olympic gold medal, as well as 35 World Cup podiums, 11 World Cup titles, four national titles and two overall World Grand Prix titles.

On Wednesday, Stone will share insights from her new book, "When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How To Stick Their Necks Out at the Program," in which she discusses a philosophy she learned from her mother, called "The Turtle Effect."

"In order to be successful, you have to be like a turtle - you have to have a soft inside, you have to have a hard shell and you have to be willing to stick your neck out," Stoneexplained.

Stone said she knew by the age of 5 that she wanted to win the Olympics.

"I'd built my own podium out of tables and chairs," she said. "And when I told my mother I wanted to win the Olympics, she sat me down, told me the philosophy of The Turtle Effect, and told me I had to be like a turtle if I wanted to be successful."

Stone said her book includes contributors from many different fields: Olympians Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn; fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger; and management guru and author Dr. Stephen Covey.

"They all talk about how they use The Turtle Effect within their careers and lives," Stone said. "And I'll be helping people find their Turtle Effect."

If she could give one piece of advice, Stone said she'd tell people to write down their goals and keep them in their pocket. This is a technique she uses while working with the U.S. Olympic Committee to help train athletes, as well as with NBC's "The Biggest Loser" contestants in a regional pilot program in Wichita, Kansas.

Stone currently travels around the world as an inspirational speaker, ski host and sports psychology consultant.

Although Stone has been heli-skiing in Alaska, she has not been to Juneau but is looking forward to it.

"People have already been so warm," she said. "I love speaking for Rotary; it's one of my favorite things to do. And my family is coming with me, so it's going to be a fun little adventure."

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at kim.andree@juneauempire.com.

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