A four-time Olympic Alpine skier, Casey Puckett retired after the Salt Lake Games and became a ski coach before finding his way into ski cross in 2003. During the 2008-09 season, the veteran was the top American in the World Cup ski cross standings, in fourth place.
Looking back to 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2002, do you have a favorite memory from all those Olympics?
Ninety-four, the slalom, I was not favored in anyway, started 34th and ended up in seventh place, only a half a second from the bronze and that was a real peak performance for me. I really felt like I was in the zone. A lot of things going wrong, but it didn't throw me off at all. I had frostbite and my poles were breaking and a lot of things kept happening, but I was completely focused and skied really well and seventh place, not too bad.
How did you make the transition to ski cross?
When I retired in 2002 I went into ski coaching, started working with kids at the local ski club. And the nature of living in Aspen, there always seem to be events going on there and they had the 24 Hours of Aspen, which is a race that goes from twelve noon one day all the way through the night to twelve noon the next day. I did sixty three runs, just skied through the night, and I ended up winning that event, and the girl that ended up winning that event said, "Oh you should try ski cross, you'd love it." This was the fall of ‘02, like December of '02. I said "No, that's for young kids, that's for big mountain people, that has nothing, I'm an alpine racer, that's not for me." But, I decided to try it out anyways. I went up and did the X Games in 2003 and the first time I hit that course, it was over. I fell in love with that sport and never stopped.
What are some of the more harrowing moments you've experienced as a ski cross racer?
I separated my shoulder in a race in Grindelwald [Switzerland], where I was taken out on the last jump before the finish. I landed on my head, separated my shoulder. I was knocked out for about a minute-and-a-half. It was a pretty spectacular crash. I got helicoptered out to Interlaken. And people who watched it thought I was dead. They were, like, oh my god, he's either broken his neck, or something's happened. Because I was lifeless for, like, almost two minutes. And I woke up, came out of my haze about two months later. And started working again.
Is it tough to keep doing this when you have kids at home?
I think it's no matter what you're doing, depending on much time you are at home, the time you're away from your kids, the more you want to be with them. Probably if you are with them, 24/7, you want to get away from them, but I'm away from them enough that I miss them all the time and when I have long periods of time when I leave for Europe or anywhere around the world, it's hard for me. I really miss my daughters and they miss me. Probably the hardest part is when my daughter said, "When are you going to stop leaving?" I'm like, "Well, that's a tough one to answer."
With your daughter Annalisa having been diagnosed with Interstitial Lung Disease at six months old, how much harder does traveling become?
Extremely difficult. Especially when - like if I'm on the road and she has an episode where she has to go to the hospital, that's devastating. It's really hard.
At the same time, does it help keep you going when you're competing?
Well, you know, it puts things in perspective big time. If you have a bad day on the race hill, so what? And I think in anything, you just have to be appreciative of what you have. You know, she has lung disease but she also has the rest of her health and she's brilliant, she's very smart, and she's beautiful, and she can do everything and she just has an oxygen tube hanging from her nose the entire time, but you know she has complete use of everything else and she lives life to the fullest.
Compiled by Matt Stroup, NBCOlympics.com
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.