Profile on: Penny McCoy, youngest person named to the US National Ski Team, bronze medal winner at the World Championships in Chile
Where other people saw only snow, Dave McCoy saw possibility. After the hydrographer’s research showed that Central California’s Mammoth Mountain had more snow than any other in the area, in 1953 he bought the lease to that awesome peak on the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range for $1 a year for 99 years.
The first day they opened the ski hill for business, Dave says, “We put out a cigar box and took donations. I think fifty cents was probably the biggest contribution that was made. But we made eighteen or twenty dollars the first day.”
Mammoth Mountain also became the training grounds for Dave’s daughter Penny, who went on to become a world-class skier, the youngest competitor ever to be named to the United States’ national “A” team. At 16, Penny topped that honor to become the youngest skier to ever win a World Championship bronze medal. At 18, she was on her way to the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. But that is when the victories stopped. “I was replaced,” says Penny.
Roma McCoy, Penny’s Mom, remembers the heartbreak well. “I think that coach thought that she and a couple of the other girls were a little too old.”
It was the “beginning of humiliation, and it was the beginning of the breaking of my spirit,” says Penny.
Her father fought for her reinstatement to the team, and she was given a shot at it.
“I said, ‘I can’t do it,’ ”recalls Penny. “I can’t perform with a broken heart.”
It was more than an Olympic medal that Penny lost that day in France. Her self-esteem crumbled as she viewed herself as “a loser and third in the world.”
Many bad choices followed. Penny abandoned her plans to attend college in France and entered a marriage that gave her three children—and an abusive husband.
Eventually, these choices propelled Penny to examine her faith. “I did have a love for God all my life, as long as I can remember,” says Penny. “But, I did not have a personal relationship with him.” Tapping into the same core of energy that made her a skiing sensation, Penny started working at her faith.
“A tape from Hal Lindsay explained my last question that was holding me from being free to enter that personal relationship with God.” She said yes to that personal relationship, and things began to turn around. The athlete within her was reborn, and Penny decided to tackle one of the most grueling endurance events in the world: the iron man triathlon.
Three more followed, and with each one Penny grew stronger physically as well as spiritually. Her confidence, wrecked by the bad skiing experience, grew bold once again. “God freed me to become the person he created me to be, and not the person everybody else was creating me to be.”
After 19 years of marriage, Penny said goodbye to her first husband and returned home to Mammoth Mountain to work in the family business, in which she held a ten percent interest. She excelled in human resources where her empathy shone through.
Through all the ups and down, on ski hills and off, Penny McCoy grew strong as a Christian and strong as an athlete. Sports Illustrated recognized this when they named Penny as one of the best women in sports throughout the decades. “Ultimately,” says Penny, “I’m becoming what God created me to become and do what he’s created me to do and in that itself, is the ultimate success.”
As a footnote, today Mammoth Mountain is an internationally known ski resort that employs 2,500 people. Recently, the McCoys sold the business—which began with a $99 lease, as you will remember—for $385 million dollars. Success indeed.
Would you like to become the person that God meant for you to be? Jesus can help. If you don’t know Jesus, we encourage you to pray the following:
Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life. Make me be the person You want me to be.