BEIJING, China — Katie Hensien's seemingly insurmountable bucket list is already earning quite a few checks.
"The big one was US Ski Team, I checked that one off back in 2017," she said. "World champs, which was last year, I checked that one off, and now the Olympics, and then the big one is Olympic medalist."
That final one could come as early as Tuesday night (or Wednesday morning in Beijing), as she competes in her first-ever Olympic event. Hensien makes her 2022 Winter Olympics debut in slalom, alongside the sport's biggest name, Mikaela Shiffrin.
Hensien has another check she didn't mention, but one she's equally proud to boast.
"Being able to do both academics and athletics and being one of the only alpine skiers on the US Ski Team to balance both, it is hard and it takes a lot of determination and you've got to have guts to be able to balance all of that," she said.
Not only is she one of the only alpine skiers on the US team to balance both at the moment, but Hensien is the first DU alpine skier to concurrently ski for Team USA in the Olympics since Eric Poulsen in 1972. She's the first female to do so since Gladys Werner (1956).
With the availability of Name, Image, and Likeness in the NCAA, Hensien believes more athletes may choose the collegiate route to get the best of both worlds.
"I don't even know what I would do if I was a freshman this year or even looking at college, because I know when I looked, the ski team wasn't a full-ride and I had to pay to be on the ski team. DU was helping to support me grow my career and helping me get to that World Cup, because my freshman year, I wasn't really at the World Cup yet, I was still doing those races to get there," she said. "Now, I think I hope athletes are definitely more interested in school. Being able to get sponsorships, make a wage, being able to get paid, and grow your athletic career through college, I think it's a great opportunity."
She's a role model to the next generation of collegiate skiers, but she also looks to the past Pios to earn some inspiration for her own future.
"One of the big reasons I went to DU is the rich culture and their past history of bringing up some of the biggest names and best alpine skiers on the World Cup," she said. "Being able to compete for DU and now represent them and the US at the Olympics in Beijing is a great achievement and a great honor and I love it."
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