WESTPORT — For many, the name Julia Marino evokes the image of a young woman, a snowboard, and seeing the two together soaring through the air.
Marino, a native of Westport, has risen to the pinnacle in the snowboarding world both domestically and abroad as one of the best the country has to offer.
The 20-year old will have the world watching as she competes for Team USA during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea later this week.
But for the people that know her best, she’s still just that same kid from Westport.
“She’s still just always Julia,” Elaine Marino said about her daughter. “She’s just Jules. She’s just our daughter. It’s a little weird.”
Along with husband John, the Marino parents flew out to Seoul, South Korea on Tuesday night, excited to watch their snowboarding daughter compete for an Olympic medal.
While the parents have to focus on controlling their own emotions during the opening ceremonies and, of course, the event days, John Marino said the moment is never too big for Julia.
Not even after qualifying for the games.
“She’s a very chill person,” he said. “She took it all in stride. She was excited about it.”
“She doesn’t get phased by a lot. That’s a good thing,” Elaine Marino said.
Since turning pro, Marino has made a steady progression to get to the games, including winning medals in each of the last two Winter X Games — a gold medal in the slopestyle finals and a bronze medal in the big air event during the 2017 Winter X Games. And also a silver medal in the slopestyle finals during the 2018 X Games.
HER BIG MOMENT
But it was during the event she won back in 2016 at the U.S. Grand Prix at Fenway Park that began to get the snowboarding world, and her supporting cast back home, excited for what was to come.
“When she went to Fenway,” St. Joseph’s High School girls soccer coach Jack Nogueira said. “That was the first time we all said ‘wow, she’s probably going to make the Olympics.’ ”
Nogueira coached Marino during the three years she spent as a Cadet, including in 2013 as a member of the Class LL girls soccer state championship team.
The spirit that Marino showed for soccer made it clear that she would go far, he said.
“She was a great competitor,” Nogueira said. “She was fearless at soccer so I think it translated with snowboarding.”
While at St. Joseph’s, Marino would attend classes normally during the first semester of the school year. But then during the second semester, teachers at the high school would allow her to turn in assignments online, while she spent time cross country training, until her final semester at St. Joseph’s in the fall of 2013.
“She did a wonderful job,” Nogueira said. “It’s not easy. She had a lot of friends. As the years went on, everybody kind of knew it was going to be her last year.”
After moving on from St. Joseph’s, Marino finished her education from an online program, before turning pro when she was 18. The situation was not void of both good and bad times, but she has been able to rise above it, her father said.
“She’s had some highs and lows,” John Marino said. “There’s been times she’s struggled with confidence. (But) those have been great learning opportunities.”
Those moments of ups and downs have proven to be paramount during the rise in her career, from a girl with a dream of snowboarding in the Olympics, to being able to achieve it after all the hard work.
IT’S REALLY HERE
While she has been applauded for handing the moments as they come, the same can sometimes not be said for those around her. As the occasions that are larger than life present themselves, so too do a slew of new emotions, especially for a parent.
“It happens it waves,” John Marino said. “Reality is setting in.”
Although she had always been know for having a lovable spirit, the pressure of the moment did at times begin to hang over the 20-year old, her father said.
“The weight of everything that has happened,” John Marino said. “She feels the responsibility now. It was making it not as fun.”
But he credits the sports psychologist that the athletes receive for “putting it all in perspective.”
Which is, when it all boils down to it, an amazing feat for this Westport-native. Her mother said that the wave of emotions may come in the form of a tsunami during the opening ceremonies as Julia comes out with the rest of the U.S. Olympians, but it will be pure joy at all she has been able to accomplish.
“We’re extremely proud,” Elaine Marino said. “It’s indescribable. We’ve seen Julia grow as a person and raise in the ranks, but she’s still our daughter. ”
It has been that foundation that has kept the 20-year old X Games gold medalist rooted in both her love for snowboarding and her family.
“She’s very grounded and down-to-earth,” Elaine Marino said. “We’ve always been mom and dad. She’s been able to stay normal. She’s just a kid from Westport.”
Click the link for a video tribute from St. Joseph’s High School about Julia Marino — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Qf8IJJh2v0&feature=youtu.be
ct.com; Twitter: @aronJohnson_