As the world’s attention turns toward the golden dreams of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, Canyons District’s eyes are on a student who is riding and sliding full speed toward national recognition as one of the country’s best young snowboarders.
When Terrell Cooper started snowboarding nine years ago, he didn’t expect to someday become one of the best riders in the world for his age.
For one thing, he got a late start in the sport, compared to the kids he would one day compete against. Cooper, a 17-year-old junior at Alta High, started when he was about 8 years old, but a lot of serious snowboarders start as soon as they can walk.
By the time Cooper made it onto a snowboard, his friends were already faster and more experienced.
“All of my friends were snowboarders and I was the worst in my group,” Cooper says now, as the ranking third-place champion of the 2013 Junior Freeride World Championships. “They’d always leave me, so that made me want to get better.”
Cooper started snowboarding on his own, and he did get better. Three years ago he joined Team Utah, a snowboarding club that helps amateur riders make the transition to competitive riding. And he’s been rocketing skyward ever since.
“I think it’s not easy,” Cooper says of his lifestyle now working out at the gym for two hours every day and each year competing in up to 20 competitions over the course of just a few months. “It’s not like a normal job where you go to work and you can come home and hang out with friends … That is something I have to give up.”
Cooper does make time to keep up with his schoolwork, however. He attends class at Alta for two semesters every year, then withdraws from the school in the winter and takes classes online while he travels from competition to competition. So far, Cooper is ahead of where he should be, garnering enough credits to be able to graduate early next year.
He might not have started as a prodigy, but Cooper’s committed now to becoming a professional snowboarder by the time he turns 19. Then, when he competes in the world championships, he plans to be standing in first place.