– Triathlete and Motivational Speaker –
“I’m not afraid to dream, and dream big, thanks to my dad”
Meet Winter Vinecki, who lives and trains in Park City Utah, an ambitious 14-year-old young triathlete who has been making waves in the sport of triathlon. Racing since the age of five, her competitive spirit has compelled her to be the best. By the age of nine, she found herself competing in an Olympic Distance triathlon; a distance usually reserved for seasoned adult triathletes. Winter initially had thoughts of racing as a means of bringing light to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. This all changed one spring morning in 2008. Winter found her true calling, founding Team Winter (501 (c) 3) to race in honor of her dad.
In May 2008, Winter experienced personal hardship that would prove to be the defining moment in her life and career as an athlete. After a series of medical tests, her dad, Michael, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of prostate cancer. The grim prognosis was met, not only with sadness, but with determination. Winter vowed to do everything in her power to put an end to prostate cancer and help find a cure so that other families wouldn’t have to endure the personal hardships that hers were going through. Thus, Team Winter became a vessel for funding prostate cancer research and raising prostate cancer awareness on a global scale.
After the passing of her dad in 2009, Winter’s determination has only grown. While maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA in Stanford University’s prestigious online High School, EPGY, she travels almost every weekend to races in which she, her three brothers. and her mom, Dr. Dawn Estelle, spread the word about Team Winter and prostate cancer awareness. She runs a Team Winter booth at various expos and undertakes speaking venues at schools with “Winter’s Inspirational Talk Series,” all the while racing each race with unrivaled passion. Winter is a two-time IronKids National Triathlon Champion. Each first place trophy she receives is sent to a person affected by prostate cancer as a means of support and a gesture of goodwill. While most kids cherish their trophies, she cherishes the people she gives them to. She served as the IronKids Ambassador for three years (2010-2012) traveling to youth triathlons around the US encouraging kids to lead an active, positive, and healthy lifestyle. She also introduced kids to the sport of triathlon and encouraged them to not only race for themselves but for a cause.
Today, the growth of Winter as a triathlete and Team Winter as an organization is exponential. At 14-years-old, her foundation is sponsored by companies such as Newton Running, TYR, Louis Garneau, and Rudy Project, all who help her raise prostate cancer awareness. Winter has been coached by some industry greats such as Simon Lessing (Legendary Triathlete and renowned triathlon coach) and Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen (holder of 2008 FINA Masters World Swim Records). Winter’s current running coach since the start of her marathons, is Mark Hadley out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Mark is a well-respected coached in the marathon industry and one of the pioneers in youth endurance coaching and the dad of up and coming runner, Alana Hadley. Many of today’s professional triathletes and retired legends call Winter a friend, and she garners copious amounts of attention wherever she goes. Winter was recently recognized for inspiring and encouraging youth across America. Golf legend, Annika Sorenstam, presented Winter with the Annika Inspiration Award at Billie Jean King’s 2011 Annual Salute to Women in Sports Gala in New York City.
But, for Winter, it’s not about the attention. It’s about bringing vindication to her dad, who was given a death sentence in the form of prostate cancer; a disease which will affect one in six men. She strives every day, sacrificing playtime and other luxuries kids her age take for granted to ensure that she is doing all she can to bring an end to this tragic and all-too-common disease. Some may find it is hard to fathom that a 14-year-old is capable of all of what she has accomplished, but for her, it’s only the beginning. Winter plans on running a marathon on all seven Continents, before she turns 15, to bring global awareness to prostate cancer. To date, Winter has helped raise close to $500,000 for prostate cancer awareness and research.
Winter was the 2011 recipient of the Annika Inspiration Award. At that event, she met Aerial’s Olympian Emily Cook, who convinced her to try out for the Fly Elite Freestyle Aerials team in Park City. Last year, Winter was recruited by the Olympic Development Team, Fly Elite. She was the youngest and newest member of the team. In just her first season of competition, she made the USA World Aerial Freestyle Team. In 2013, she also received the first annual Sarah Burke Scholarship and worked with Rory Bushfield to help carry on Sarah’s legacy in the freestyle ski world. Winter has just qualified for the second time this past week on the water ramps in Park City, UT which will allow her to do two flips in the air on snow this winter in competitions. Winter recently captured the 2014 Jr. National Aerial Championship Title and traveled to Italy on the US Jr. Freestyle Team. In March 2014, she was named as part of the U.S. Freestyle Junior Worlds Team. The 2014 FIS Junior World Ski Championships were held later that month in Chiesa in Valmalenco, Italy. Vinecki placed fifth in ladies’ aerials with a total of 162 points. Her goal is to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Winter has her sights on the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. She will be 19 years old at that time. Winter has lived and trained in Park City, UT year round since July 2012.
Winter was featured in Runner’s World Magazine’s December 2013 issue. Winter will also be featured in the December issue of Sports Illustrated Kids Magazine. To learn about all of Winter’s accomplishments, visit her personal website at www.wintervinecki.com. Here you will find all her awards, media, results marathon tour, etc. Winter has two websites as well as an online store store.teamwinter.org where she has designed youth triathlon and running gear that fits even the youngest of athletes (Winter’s clothing proudly displays the blue ribbon of prostate cancer) You can also support Winter’s foundation at www.teamwinter.org.
Winter in her own words
How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?
I spent three years as the Iron Kids Ambassador introducing kids to the sport of triathlon. I encouraged kids to lead an active, positive and healthy lifestyle and to race not only for themselves but for a cause. I continue to go into schools around the world inspiring the youth to fuel their bodies for success and to dream big! Knowing that I have made a difference in just one child’s life is rewarding in so many ways. I never thought that losing my dad at age 9 could have such a positive impact on so many kids. Sharing my story has inspired so many kids to start their own foundation, race for their own cause, chase their own dreams and so much more.
Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?
To do a triathlon you don’t just need to be good at one thing and it really doesn’t take any training unlike a lot of sports. You don’t even need special equipment, just equipment most kids have around home (a bike, shoes and swimsuit). Seeing kids and adults of all ages, race, gender, shapes and sizes and different experience levels out there together cheering each other along is a very positive and inspiring atmosphere. I’m not certain what makes the sport so special around the world. I think “the people” is the only thing I can think of. Triathletes are a special group of caring, supportive people that encourage one another and welcome newcomers to the sport by sharing their knowledge and experience. Many times it is the last place person that receives more applause than the actual winner.
When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?
I was six when I did my first triathlon. It was a Kids of Steel triathlon in Canada and I took 2nd place. I immediately fell in love with the sport and went on to be the 2010 and 2011 Iron Kids National Triathlon Champion.
What motivates you in life?
I’m motivated by the lose of my 40 year old dad. He waited to do all the things he dreamed of and never got to chase those dreams. I’m motivated to make a difference in the world and not put off until tomorrow what I’m capable of doing today. I’m not afraid to dream and dream big thanks to my dad.
What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?
“Never Give In!” Never give despite the critics, the nay-sayers, those that say it is impossible, you can’t, you won’t. NEVER GIVE IN!
Who inspires you? Why?
I started running and doing triathlons at age five because that is what my mom did. She continues to train and race despite being a full time mom (and dad) to my three brothers and I, work full time as a physician and help run my non-profit, Team Winter. My mom has always told me, “See it All, Do it All, Be it All” and so I live by those words.
How did you deal with obstacles in your life?
I have faced many obstacles in my life, not just the lose of my dad. I have been taught by my mom to surround myself with people who believe in me, my mission and my dreams. These are the people that you will need to support you and pick you back up when you encounter obstacles in life. Keeping a positive attitude, not making the same mistake twice and learning from your mistakes are key points to remember.
What do you like most about Triathlons?
I love that triathlons combine three sports, swimming, biking and running. You need to be a well rounded athlete to do well in triathlons. Triathlons are also great because they promote cross training which leads to being a better overall athlete and less injuries.
Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons
World Record Holder- Youngest person to run a marathon on all 7 continents. Youngest person to run 26.2 miles in Antarctica and the first mother/daughter to run a marathon on all 7 continents. 2014 Jr National Champion Aerial Skiing 2014 5th Place Finish Jr World Freestyle Skiing Championships in Italy 2013 Spartan Race World Champion 19 & Under WebMD Health Hero of the Year 2008 Kohl’s Kids Who Care National Award Winner 2009 Annika Inspiration Award Winner 2012 Kids’ Sports Illustrated Fab Five Award 2013 Sarah Burke Scholarship Recipient 2013 2014 Recipient of “The One Hundred” Award
Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations?
Yes. I founded Team Winter, at the age of 9 after my dad was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of prostate cancer on his 40th birthday. Unfortunately, my dad passed away 10 months later before he could turn 41. Please support us at www.teamwinter.org