Vermont native Andrea Mead Lawrence, who won two gold medals in the 1952 Olympics in Oslo, died of cancer this week at her home in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
She was 76.
Her family owned and operated Pico Mountain near Rutland, Vt., where she learned to ski by emulating others, although she had no formal lessons.
She experienced a pivotal moment at the age of 10 during a run down a race course at Lake Placid.
"I went through a hairpin turn and it was so natural, it was like a psychic click. I mean it was just one of those remarkable moments and I knew instinctively that that's what I was meant to do," she told Vermont Public Radio's Nina Keck in February 2009.
Lawrence had a brilliant career in ski racing. She was a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 1948, '52, and '56, competing in her first games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, at age 15. She won two gold medals at the Oslo games in 1952, a mark that has never been matched by any other American alpine racer. (Lindsey Vonn won two golds at the World Championships this season.)
Her best racing years were 1951 and 1952, leading into the Oslo games. She won 10 of 16 races, including the Arlberg-Kandahar downhill, appeared on the cover of Time magazine, and went on to win GS and slalom at the Olympics. She won the GS, and came from behind six days later to win the slalom with a brilliant second run after a fall in her first run.
"When I took off for the second run, I was released as the full force and energy of who I am as a person. In a way, the second run was a perfect run. There are few times in our lives where we become the thing we're doing," she said in an interview published in The San Jose Mercury News in 2002.
Lawrence had a solid perspective on racing, perhaps because she excelled.
"Competition can be a very intense experience and a very rewarding one, or it can be enormously destructive. External pressure, whether it's exerted by a coach, a school, a ski club, or a country, is what can make it a negative thing. When they use you to satisfy their need to succeed, when they impose their value system on you, then competition isn't personally rewarding anymore.... You're either a winner or a loser.... There's no way in my mind that you can divide humanity into those two categories," she told WomenSports magazine in 1977.
Racing was one major facet of her life, but not the only one. She devoted much time to family and conservation.
She was born April 19, 1932, one of two children of Bradford and Janet Mead, and with her brother, Peter, learned to ski early.
"Being born and raised in Vermont the first 10 years of my life were probably the most important and significant of all the years I've had. And I've often said my soul is in Vermont and my spirit is in the West," Lawrence told VPR in the February interview.
She and American GS champion David Lawrence were married in 1951, had five children, and divorced in 1967. Lawrence moved from Aspen, Colo., where she served on the planning board, to Mammoth Lakes in 1968. The competitive spirit carried over into her later work as a conservationist in California's Sierra Nevada mountains. She served 16 years as a Mono County Supervisor, working to balance nature and people in an era of intense development pressure and growing environmentalism.
That work drew on all her reserves of determination and strength honed on race courses around the world.
"I never learned to quit. I mean all those years of racing I never ever quit. There's a price I paid for that. And I think part of that pressure and tension and stress led me into this damn cancer stuff," Lawrence told Keck of her battles for conservation.
She was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, and passed away Tuesday in her home.