PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (WOOD) — Freestyle skier Jon Lillis wasn’t able to come to PyeongChang with his youngest brother. But he says he has felt his presence during the competition.
Lillis’ 17-year-old brother Mikey passed away in October 2017. According to TeamUSA.org, Mikey was “an up-and-coming aerialist,” following in his eldest brother’s shoes.
Lillis told WOOD TV8’s Jack Doles that finding the strength to compete came in part from his family’s passion for the sport.
“Aerials and jumping and skiing and competing is something that me and my brothers have always really shared and been passionate about,” he said. “So those are the moments that you still feel like you’re closest to people when you’re doing what you all loved and also doing things to make them proud.”
Lillis said he didn’t want the memory of his brother to be tainted by taking a year off or skipping the Olympics.
“That wouldn’t be for me any way to honor (him). The best way is just to come out and do it and envision he was down there cheering,” he said.
Lillis had one of his biggest jumps in a qualifying round in PyeongChang, and says he could feel his brother’s spirit with him.
“Honestly, I was really high in the air and I thought I was going to land on my back,” he said. “So maybe a little bit of him pulling me down to earth and making it so I could land on my feet. I would like to say that but at the same time, I feel there hasn’t really been a time over the last four months that I felt he wasn’t with me.”