It was a once-in-a-lifetime performance that garnered Nikki Stone a Gold Medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, making her the first American to achieve such a feat in the sport of aerial skiing. But it is her skill with advice for everyday life—both personal and professional—that has kept this athlete-turned-motivational speaker and personal development coach in the spotlight since her win in Nagano, Japan.
Born and bred outside of Boston, Massachusetts, Stone first took to the slopes at the age of 3, but it was gymnastics that was her first love during childhood. Stone developed a fiery determination even back then, dreaming of winning an Olympic Gold Medal before she entered grade school. At the age of 5, the ambitious kindergartner built her very own Olympic podium and announced to her surprised family that she would one day win the Olympics.
It was clear early on that Stone had a natural talent for sports, which was a perfect complement to her "try anything" attitude. Already an award-winning gymnast in high school, Stone was first introduced to aerial skiing at age 18. Almost as an afterthought, she decided to try it since it combined her two favorite pastimes: gymnastics and skiing. From the outset, Stone possessed the perfect skill needed to excel at such a difficult sport. It was clear that Stone was an Olympic contender for the 1998 Nagano Games, but a place on the podium was far from secured. No American had ever won Gold in aerial skiing.
Stone’s skills—not to mention her competitive and human spirit—would be put to the ultimate test after her World Championship win in 1995. A chronic injury prevented her from standing, much less walking or skiing down a slope at almost 40 miles per hour. Essentially bedridden, Stone visited 10 doctors in as many weeks, all of who told her to hang up her skis and her Olympic dreams. As a result of continually launching her body 50 feet in the air, Stone had put intense stress on her disks, putting them at risk of bursting. Unwilling to step down from a challenge, Stone persevered and found a doctor who saw her through a painful recovery process.
Against all odds, one year later, Stone returned to the freestyle skiing podium. This top spot was far from foreign to her as throughout her career, she earned 35 World Cup medals, 11 World Cup titles, four national titles, two yearlong Aerial World Cup titles, and a World Championship title. She also became the first pure aerialist ever (male or female) to become the yearlong Overall Freestyle World Cup Champion. In 1998, Stone made Olympic history.
Today, Stone spends her time traveling the globe working as a much sought-after inspirational speaker and advisor. Retained by the US Olympic Committee to train elite athletes and Olympians in speaking, presentation, and mentoring skills, Stone has worked with several 2010 Winter Olympic hopefuls. She was most recently honored with the 2008 International Professional Speaker of the Year from the American Speakers Bureau Corporation.
At the core of Stone’s message is "The Turtle Effect," something her mother shared with her when she was just a child. Stone has carried the simple yet successful philosophy—a hard outer shell combined with a soft inside and a willingness to stick one’s neck out—with her throughout her life and uses it to help others learn how to integrate it in their own lives. She encourages and inspires her audiences to find their own "Turtle Effect" by realizing their passions, triumphing over obstacles and take life-enhancing risks, like she did, to reach extraordinary goals that may initially seem unattainable.
Stone discusses this philosophy along with her other keys to a successful life in her highly anticipated new book, When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out. The book includes inspirational anecdotes from people from all different arenas (politicians, actors/actresses, Fortune 500 business executives, musicians, authors, athletes, Nobel Prize winners, and more). After each story, Stone gives readers activities that they can perform to help reinforce the behavior needed to succeed in their own lives.
Spreading the message of the Turtle Effect even wider, Stone plans to donate a portion of the proceeds of the sales of her book to cancer research. Giving back comes naturally to Stone: she regularly devotes time to charities such as “Right To Play” and “The Make-A-Wish Foundation,” and currently sits on eight different Olympic, sport and charitable committees.
You may have seen Nikki through her numerous television appearances on such shows as Late Night with David Letterman, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN Early Addition, MSNBC Morning Line, ESPN’s Cold Pizza, FOX News Sports Express, CNN Business As Unusual, and FOX Sports News live. You could have also caught Nikki in one of her nationally televised commercials for companies like Chevrolet.
Stone has also penned articles for Yahoo Sports, the United States Olympic Committee, numerous newspapers, and various skiing magazines. She is also a contributing author to the inspirational book Awaken the Olympian Within: Stories from America's Greatest Olympic Motivators (1999, Griffin Publishing).
In addition to her skiing, writing, philanthropic and speaking endeavors, Stone is a Magna Cum Laude undergraduate of Union College in New York and a Summa Cum Laude Master’s graduate of the University of Utah in the field of Sports Psychology. Stone also works as a Visiting Professor at the University of Utah teaching Sports Psychology.
Stone resides in Park City, Utah with her husband, Michael and her one-year-old daughter, Zali. But whether at home or on the road, Stone continually works to help people stick their necks out to reach whatever their gold medal may be.