The Wood River Valley abounds with successful athletes. In the 2018 Best of the Valley polling, Idaho Mountain Express readers selected three that stand out from the crowd in special ways.

Gold medal

Chase Josey, 23, was voted the gold-medal winner for his homegrown success at the highest levels of competition during the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“I want to thank everyone for all their support,” Josey said during an interview while training at Mount Bachelor in Oregon in early May.

“I feel so blessed to have grown up with such a great community surrounding me,” he said.

The Hailey native and U.S. Snowboard Team member gained international attention while competing against the best of the best, taking sixth place in the halfpipe at Phoenix Snow Park during the Olympics.

Local spectators cheered wildly at the Ketchum Town Square as Josey held first place for a long while in a field that included teammate Shaun White, who ultimately took gold.

Josey said growing up near Sun Valley Resort and training with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation teams contributed to his success.

“It was a huge part of my upbringing,” he said.

Josey is riding and training for the first time since winter and will soon be at Mammoth Mountain in California to meet up with others on the U.S. Team. He has hopes for another try at an Olympic medal.

“I suppose I will be around for a few more winters,” he said. ‘If it’s in the cards, I would like to compete again. I just look forward with a positive mentality.”

He was scheduled to go to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, in August.

“I plan to do some backcountry snowboarding and ride the resorts there,” he said. “I’ve been down there a few times before and I feel it calling me back.”

Silver medal

Professional mountain biker Rebecca Rusch, 49, was voted the silver-medal winner by Express readers. Known as the “queen of pain,” Rusch has been a professional athlete for 30 years and holds seven world championship titles in a number of sports.

In addition to mountain biking, Rusch is an accomplished rock climber, has river-boarded the Grand Canyon and was the first person to cycle the entire length of the 1,200-mile Ho Chi Minh Trail, in Southeast Asia.

A Red Bull Media House feature film called “Blood Road,” released in 2017, documented Rusch’s personal journey along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in search of the story of her father, who was shot down during the Vietnam War.

“Beyond the start line, Rebecca brings energy, positivity and inspiration to whatever challenge she meets,” her website states. “She has pedaled through the night on an epic adventure across Italy, ridden all the way up to the summit of Africa’s legendary Mt. Kilimanjaro, and taught clinics and camps in her #JoinTheRusch effort to introduce more women and girls to her sport.”

Rusch is a firefighter, cycling advocate and motivational speaker. Her 2014 autobiography, “Rusch to Glory,” written with Selene Yeager, tells the story of “a scrawny, asthmatic kid from Chicago who leaned toward lazy,” yet graduated from college with top honors to wander the world in search of adventure. Borneo, Patagonia, Europe and finally to Sun Valley, where she married Ketchum firefighter Greg Martin.

Rusch’s local Labor Day bike race, Rebecca’s Private Idaho, benefits local, national and international charities.

Bronze medal

Hilary Knight, 29, whose family has resided in Sun Valley for 17 years, was awarded the bronze medal by Express readers.

In February, Knight helped the U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey Team win a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang. She is also perhaps the best-known women’s hockey player in the world.

Knight is a member of the U.S. women’s national ice hockey team and Les Canadiennes de Montreal of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She previously played for the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League, with whom she won the inaugural Isobel Cup.

“I’ve always considered Sun Valley to be home,” she said. “It’s a magical place where I can catch a breath and relax. During the summer, I like to bike and swim and go rafting.”

Knight is also a two-time Olympic silver medalist, fulfilling a goal that she set for herself in her youth. She told the Idaho Mountain Express that “at the age of 5 I knew I wanted to play hockey. I turned to my grandmother and told her I was going to be an Olympian.”

Knight is also changing the landscape for females in sports.

“I’m a female athlete, really pushing the envelope for women in sports,” she said. “I’m all about believing in limitless mentality and not placing a ceiling on dreams and goals. It’s just loving what you do.

“I try to keep the dialogue going, not just for hockey but other sports, as well, and not only for women in sports, but in the workplace.”

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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