RIGBY — Spectators at Friday night’s varsity basketball game at Rigby High School received an Olympic-size surprise.
Alumni Jessika Jenson, who found out this week she will represent the U.S. at the Sochi 2014 Olympics from Feb. 7 to 23, made an appearance at halftime.
School officials had plans to present her family with a snowboard for her use. However, they had no idea that Jenson would be accepting the gift in person.
“She is such a good example for the youth,” said Natalie Jenson, her mother. “She always does the right thing. She doesn’t drink or smoke or party ... . She’s all about eating healthy and being fit.”
The professional snowboarder graduated from Rigby High School in 2009 with a 3.96 GPA.
“Everyone at the school is so excited and proud,” said Natalie Jenson.
The 22-year-old will be signing autographs on Monday at the Chevron gas station in Ririe from 6 to 8 p.m. She departs for Sochi, Russia, on Jan. 29.
“This is her first Olympics,” her mother explained. “It’s also the first time athletes will have the option to compete in a slopestyle competition. She will be a part of history. This is her dream.”
The goal for slopestyle skiers and snowboarders is to perform the most difficult tricks while getting the highest amplitude off of jumps, with an emphasis on performing a variety of tricks.
The elder Jenson indicated that Jessika will be competing against 23 other competitors in the slopestyle competition.
“We are so proud of her,” said Natalie Jenson. “She started out on skis. Jessika was 10 years old when she put on a snowboard for the first time. She hasn’t hardly taken it off since.”
Jenson’s family will not be watching from the sidelines, in part due to recent security concerns and restricted access to the athletes.
“We worry, but this is her dream, and this is what she wants to do,” her mother said. “We will be praying for her and wishing her the best.”
With no injuries to speak of, Jessika’s family has high hopes for a stellar performance.
“If she is not on the podium this time,” her mother speculated. “I am sure she will make it a point to aim for gold the next time around.”
Jenson entered her first snowboarding competition when she was 14.
“She started out at the Kelly (Canyon) X Games,” said Natalie Jenson. “She competed against boys because there were very few female snowboarders at the time. She still fared well.”
In between competitions and training, Jessika started her own neck warmer line called J!Wow. The money she earns helps pay for snowboarding expenses.
“She’s a super go-getter and likes to earn her own way,” her mother said. “She came up with the idea on her own and makes them herself. She’s completely sold out right now.”
Jessika posted this comment on her athlete Facebook page on Jan. 20: “I am so honored and privileged to represent the USA in the first ever Slopestyle along with Jamie Anderson, Ty Walker, and Karly Shorr! Thank you all so very much for all the support from over the years (mom, dad, family, friends, sponsors, community ... I love you all)!
“I would like to give a shout out to my coach Bill Enos! He pushed for me from day one and never stopped believing! He has taught me so much (on and off the snow) in the last 2 years! And prepared me! Go USA!!”
For a one-on-one interview with Jessika Jenson, pick up a copy of the Idaho State Journal’s Sunday edition.