Freeskier Nick Goepper poses during the USOC Media Summit ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on Oct. 1, 2013 in Park City, Utah.
First-time Olympian Nick Goepper once pressure-washed and sanded a neighbor’s back deck in Indiana so he could raise some cash to attend a ski academy.
Times have changed for this 19-year-old from Lawrenceburg, Ind., a small farming community located about 30 miles west of Cincinnati. Instead of washing decks and skiing at Perfect North Slopes, a classic Midwest ski area in southeastern Indiana, he is ready for the biggest stage of all at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Goepper, who was ranked the No. 1 slopestyle skier in the world last year, will go after his first Olympic medal in the men’s slopestyle event Thursday Feb. 13, at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Slopestyle skiing is one of eight disciplines making its Olympic debut in Sochi. The women’s slopestyle skiing event was held Tuesday.
Goepper hopes to continue a gold-medal run by U.S. athletes in slopestyle. Snowboard slopestyle also made its Olympic debut over the first weekend of competition, and Americans won the gold medal in both the men’s and women’s events. Sage Kotsenburg won the men’s slopestyle and Jamie Anderson won the women’s event. The U.S. slopestyle skiing athletes cheered on their teammates at the snowboard slopestyle finals.
Goepper’s path toward Sochi began in 2011 when he was in Mt. Hood, Ore., and saw the news on his computer that slopestyle skiing would make its Olympic debut in 2014.
“I was not surprised, but I was insanely stoked,” Goepper told TeamUSA.org.
Since then, he has ruled the sport. He won the gold medal at the last two Winter X Games, including in January in Aspen, Colo. He was a bronze medalist at the 2013 FIS World Championships. Plus he has been ranked No. 1 or No. 2 the last three years in the AFP World rankings.
Goepper was the first men’s slopestyle skier to secure a berth on the U.S. Olympic Team, qualifying after just two of five selection competitions.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s super fun. The Olympics add a bit more pressure, but we’re out here trying to get creative and have fun,” he said after finishing second in the Visa U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix presented by The North Face at Copper Mountain, Colo.
Along his Olympic journey, Goepper has enjoyed some fun perks, such as appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman. At the Opening Ceremony in Sochi, he had his picture taken with snowboarding two-time gold medalist Shaun White and posted it to his Twitter account, @NickGoepper.
He enters competition Thursday as a solid favorite. A podium finish might just be the start of an Olympic run for Goepper. At 19, he would have more Olympic Winter Games in front of him.
“I think something really strange would have to happen for Nick to not win gold in Sochi,” said Mike Hanley, a longtime ski coach who trained Goepper at Windells Academy in Oregon.
When Goepper won the men’s slopestyle at the Winter X Games last month, he became the first man since Tanner Hall to win back-to-back gold medals in X Games Aspen slopestyle.
Joining him in the slopestyle competition Thursday will be fellow Americans Bobby Brown, Joss Christensen and Gus Kenworthy.
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org.