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At the Pyeongchang Olympics, Megan McJames proudly represents the Stars & Stripes. In a few weeks, it's back to competing as an independent on the ski circuit.
Such is life for a racer who receives no annual funding from the national team (it's based on results). The 30-year-old McJames pays about $50,000 a year to compete in the technical events on the World Cup scene. She waxes her own skis, which takes an hour or two each night, along with arranging her own travel, training and lodging.
This is her fifth season without funding. McJames raises enough money through fundraisers in her hometown of Park City, Utah, and through generous donors who want to keep her dream afloat.
"The biggest challenge for me as an independent skier is traveling through Europe alone," said McJames, who was scheduled to race for the USA in the slalom Wednesday before it was postponed by strong wind. "It's hard to do the logistics and find quality training when you don't have as many contacts as you do at home. I'm learning and getting better and better every year.
"This whole independent thing has been a journey and a crash course on learning a lot of skills _ like fundraising and managing a budget and traveling. Hopefully, it will help me down the road."
This is McJames' third Olympics _ second since having her funding dropped before the 2013-14 season. Her best finish at the Winter Games was 30th in the giant slalom at the 2014 Sochi Games. Her best World Cup finish is 14th in a GS race in 2008. She also has 21 victories on the NorAm level, which is skiing's equivalent of Triple-A.
"The reasons I keep skiing is because I love it and being in the mountains," McJames said. "That's been the motivation. When that stops, I'll stop."
On the web: https://meganmcjames.wordpress.com/about/