- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - A rough landing during training turned Slovakia slopestyle skier Natalia Slepecka’s left knee into a jumbled mess.

A bout with a virus left her relegated to her room in the athletes’ village for three days, the last one spent with an IV in her left arm.

And still, nothing was going to keep the 30-year-old from getting to the top of the slopestyle run at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park as the event made its Olympic debut.

Slepecka heard her name called, waved then enjoyed a leisurely trip to the bottom. One brief hop on the rails and that was it. No jumps. No spins. Just a quiet moment as she soaked it all in. Her scores of 34.60 and 32.60 were generous considering she did nothing beyond what most recreational skiers could do.

And she couldn’t have cared less.

“It wasn’t an option for me not to start,” Slepecka says. “I’m just stoked. It’s amazing just to be here.”

Then again, if there was a medal for best ski boot flair, Slepecka was a lock. The front of her boots were covered in “Spongebob Squarepants” stickers.

“They’re getting a lot of attention,” she says with a laugh before gingerly skiing off.

- By WillGraves - Twitter https://twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: https://apne.ws/1c3WMiu

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