“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge.
If there were ever an embodiment of persistence, Carly Margulies is it.
After enduring 7 separate knee surgeries, the 24-year-old Mammoth local is heading to the Beijing Winter Olympics to represent The United States’ Women’s Ski Halfpipe Team.
Margulies’ road to the Olympics was not a given by any means; it was a path to success defined by persistence, and an extraordinary will to not give up.
Margulies learned to ski at June Mountain when she was 3 years old. She moved to Mammoth Lakes with her family when she was 5, and, from there, would call Mammoth Mountain home. From an early age, her passion and love for skiing would drive her to keep pushing the boundaries of the sport.
As an elementary school student, she was part of the Mammoth Ski P.E. Program. Due to the young age and small builds of the kids, nobody in the program was permitted to enter the terrain park.
This didn’t stop Carly.
She would purposely “drop” her ski pole off of Chair 6 so that she would have to ski through the terrain park to get it, all while secretly hitting mini jumps and sliding rails. The day she turned 11, she joined the Mammoth Freeski Team.
She eventually began competing in the local United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) competitions, and, after winning her age group in the slopestyle, skier cross, and halfpipe events, she was invited to compete at the USASA Nationals at Copper Mountain in Colorado.
Soon after, her dream of one day competing in the Olympics was born.
When Margulies entered her freshman year at Mammoth High School, she joined the Mammoth Independent Learning Center (ILC). This gave her as much time to ski as possible by allowing her to do her school work completely virtually for 4 days of the week and only having to attend classes in person on Tuesdays. As long as her grades were kept up, she was allowed to take her classes online while traveling the world to compete.
During the spring of 2016, after winning both the USASA Nationals and the Aspen Open in the halfpipe event, she was invited to join the United States Ski Rookie team for Women’s Halfpipe.
A year later in 2017, after having a breakout ski season, she was asked to be a member of the U.S. Professional Women’s Halfpipe Ski Team.
And now, after securing her rank as 4th in her event among American women, she is going to the Olympics.
But in order to get to this point, Margulies had to overcome more hurdles than most athletes could even dream of.
This includes battling back from a recent knee injury this past December- a torn meniscus that Margulies suffered while training to compete in her first Olympic qualifying event. She had to undergo surgery that took over a month to heal from and prevented her from competing in any Olympic qualifying events.
This was far from her first injury. Prior to this, she had already undergone 6 knee surgeries.
Her first knee injury happened when she was 14 years old. She tore her ACL and meniscus while competing and was out for a full year.
She came back and immediately won a Halfpipe Rev Tour event. However, that same day she ended up tearing her other ACL and meniscus, taking her out for another year.
But this time, she knew what she had to do to properly recover; with the support and guidance of her physical therapist Bryan Dennison and athletic trainer Alana Levin of Mammoth Lakes, she would come back and ski for a consistent 3-4 seasons without injury.
And then in 2018, she tore her right ACL and meniscus again.
After 13 months of recovery, she was back again.
Margulies was on snow for about 9 months before she tore her ACL for the 4th time in 2019, at her first qualifying event back in Copper Colorado, due to an equipment failure.
The injury required two separate surgeries and a total rehabilitation time of 15 months.
“Injuries in general are super hard on athletes, especially on their mental health, and especially ACL injuries. I was somehow able to always find a silver lining for all of these injuries. I realized that each and every one of them had their own silver lining,” Margulies told The Sheet, reflecting back on her experience.
One of the biggest silver linings from her time off the snow was the opportunity to graduate college with a Bachelor’s Degree in cognitive psychology from Westminster College. Her education was paid for by a full scholarship through a partnership between the U.S. Ski Team and the college.
“At first I thought I wanted to study sports psychology and then apply that to the ski world,” said Margulies. “Then after about a year, I realized I wanted to change my focus to cognitive psychology. I decided that once I was done with skiing, I wanted to apply myself outside of that realm,” she said.
Margulies was able to graduate in 5 years. For many professional athletes in her position, a Bachelor’s Degree can take up to 10 years to complete.
She was eventually able to get back on the snow again and compete in Europe this past fall. After having the best preseason training of her life, she returned to Copper Mountain feeling confident and ready to perform. She had her sights set on qualifying for the 2022 Olympics, after missing the 2018 Olympics by a mere 10 points.
And then, she sustained her most recent injury: another torn meniscus.
“As soon as I fell, I was taken to get MRI’s and talk to the local doctor in Copper. He told me that I was looking at a 6 to 9 month recovery. In that moment, my Olympic dreams were crushed. I was so devastated. I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this ever again. I’m quitting. I’m done,’” said Margulies.
Then, the next day, she was told by her physical trainer that there was a possibility that her meniscus tear wouldn’t be “repairable”- meaning, she wouldn’t need as much of an invasive surgery and instead would face a much shorter recovery time.
“There was a glimmer of hope for me at that point, that instead of 6 to 9 months of recovery time it would only be a little more than a month” she said.
“But I tried to not get my hopes up too much, since the doctors wouldn’t know until they went in for the surgery.”
Her doctor told her that if she woke up and her knee brace was to the side of her, it would be a 4-6 week recovery. If she woke up with it on her, it would be 6 to 9 months.
She woke up and the knee brace was off of her knee, to the side of her.
Just like that, her Olympic dreams were restored.
From then on, she was determined to get back on the snow and vie for her spot on the 2022 Women’s Halfpipe Team.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to compete in any of the qualifiers for the season,” Margulies said, “but I asked my coaches what the chances were that they could discretion me onto the team. They said that it wasn’t completely up to them, but up to a committee of people. And it would have to be based on how my other teammates did during the season.”
Since she couldn’t compete, her hope was to remain ranked as 4th in the country based on the points she had already earned.
Miraculously, she stayed in fourth.
On Tuesday January 18, she got the call that she was officially going to the Olympics and was on a plane back to Mammoth from Salt Lake City to start training the next day. During her first runs back at the mountain on which she grew up skiing, she spotted the current Mammoth Ski P.E. kids practicing. “It was a humbling moment, because that’s how it all started for me,” she said.
Margulies’ main goal is not to win a medal, but to inspire other athletes through her story.
“I remember reading [four-time U.S. Olympic Halfpipe Snowboarder] Kelly Clark’s book titled, ‘Inspired’. The main take away I got from the book was how Clark wanted to leave an impact on the next generation through her snowboarding; not through winning medals, but through inspiring them,” Margulies said.
She continued: “I thought about it, and I wondered, ‘How the heck am I going to leave an impact on anyone? I just keep getting hurt. There’s no way I am going to be able to compete on the world stage like that. There’s no way I could make an impact on anyone.’ But I don’t believe that anymore. I believe that the impact I can leave on people is the story I have to tell of rising above it all.”
Margulies has already inspired younger athletes, including somebody who would end up becoming a close friend and teammate in the 2022 Olympic Games: 17-year old Hanna Faulhaber.
Carly’s mother, Lou Margulies, got a call years ago from a friend in Aspen about a little girl who skied at the after-school program the friend worked at.
“She told me that this one little girl knew all about Carly, and thought that Carly’s skiing style was what she would like to emulate,” said Lou.
“She asked if Carly would be able to write a note to the girl, and Carly did. The little girl ended up tacking the note to her wall and kept it there as inspiration,” she said.
Years later, Faulhaber would become Margulies’ roommate in Europe during the fall of 2021. The two became close friends, and traveled around Europe together, including visiting the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Margulies recalls that her and Faulhaber were both in complete awe of the museum, wandering around and watching videos of past Olympians competing. “We were literally tearing up. We were both like, woah, this could be us one day, that’s crazy. This could even be us this year,” she said.
Now, they are both going to the Olympics together.
“And she apparently still has that note tacked to her wall,” said Lou.
When asked what her favorite part about skiing is, Margulies answered that it’s the friendships that she’s made and the opportunities she’s had to travel the world. She looks forward to competing in the Olympics, explaining how “it all feels like a dream and it probably will until it’s over.”
Her plan for the future is to simply see where skiing will take her. She also hopes to eventually earn her PhD in cognitive psychology.
“I just see how hard she’s worked, since she was so young, and how every little benchmark that she had to jump to or through, she did,” said Lou Margulies with tears in her eyes, “There was never a question for either me or her father as to whether we would support her.”
“We haven’t wavered,” she said, “We have been as invested in this dream as she was and is.”
“We are just so, so proud of her,” said Carly’s father Marc Margulies.
“No matter what people say, no matter what people think, if they believe you can’t achieve something, it doesn’t matter. If you have this one goal in mind and you believe in it, you can do it,” said Carly Margulies, “You can persevere through it. No matter what hurdles come your way.”