K.C. Oakley is a woman who gets things done. Her love of freestyle skiing motivated her on the slopes and on the campus at Cal. And now she's ready to make a name for herself during the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Janelle Wang reports.
K.C. Oakley is a woman who gets things done. Her love of freestyle skiing motivated her on the slopes and on the campus at Cal.
"Freshman year I planned my courses so I only had courses Tuesday through Thursday and then I would run home because Berkeley was 5.2 miles away from my house, so I'd run home, get my car, and drive up to Tahoe," Oakley said.
Her determination no doubt propelled her to graduate from Cal in 3 1/2 years.
After graduating college in December of 2009, Oakley decided to dedicate herself full-time to freestyle skiing.
"I gave myself one year, so it was this do or die idea," Oakley recalled. "I think that worked out for me."
It more than worked out. In 2011, Oakley made the US Ski Team, was named World Cup Rookie of the Year, and and had several top 10 World Cup finishes.
"You never know what that first season is going to be like, World Cup was like a whole new level for me, so it was really cool to step out there and be confident and do well," Oakley said.
Oakley continued to ski really well the last couple of years, even while suffering from an injury called compartment syndrome.
"By the end of last season I was hardly walking," Oakley said. "I was pushing out of the gate and just having to push it out of my mind because I was in so much pain."
She eventually had surgery and while not yet 100 percent, it's much better. "
Now that it's fixed I'm feeling better so hopefully it will be fixed the rest of the season and the rest of my career," Oakley said.
Oakley still has a long road ahead of her to make it to Sochi.
"Anything can happen depending on who's hot that day," Oakley said. "Can I say I'm going to make the team? No, I definitely can't, but I'm more confident than ever."
Always in the back of her mind while training for the Olympic Games is her best friend, Jill Costello. She was in the prime of her life when she was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
"Did I ever think she was going to die? I honestly didn't think she was going to until about five days before she did, and I got onto a Skype call and I felt like I was staring death in the eyes," Oakley recalled.
Jill's death opened Oakley's eyes to the grim statistics of lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, it kills more people ever year than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined. It doesn't discriminate, striking even the healthiest of people like Jill, who was the coxswain for Cal's crew team when she was diagnosed.
"She ended up coxing her team to another 2nd place finish at NCAA's, and a month after that she passed away," Oakley said with tears in her eyes.
Shortly after Jill's death, Oakley started a group, called Jill's Legacy, which is now part of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. Its main mission is to raise the survival rate of lung cancer, which now stands at 15 percent.
"Jill brought us here and she left us a message to beat lung cancer big time. so we want to carry out that legacy," Oakley said.
Jill's Legacy is also a great motivator to get her to Sochi.
"It's always been my goal to be going to the Olympics and at some part of the road lung cancer became part of my life. And absolutely if I can do something to help lung cancer, that's my ultimate goal," Oakley said.