NEW YORK -- Style and daring won them gold in their sports’ respective Olympic debuts at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Now, with the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games just 15 months out, three of Sochi’s most electrifying champions are feeling their way to their second Olympics.
Joss Christensen is building back the confidence that won him a surprise slopestyle skiing gold medal. Halfpipe skiing champ David Wise thinks he’s back on track after a shoulder injury. And Jamie Anderson, winner of the women’s slopestyle snowboarding gold medal, is trying not to take it all too seriously.
|Jamie Anderson poses in the Olympic Park with her gold medal on Feb. 10, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
“Everything is so crazy, life goes by so quick and I just want to have fun,” Anderson, the most decorated rider in X Games slopestyle history, said at USSA’s New York Gold Medal Gala last month in New York City. “It’s a very stressful environment, and at end of the day, I snowboard because I love it. I do my best, God does the rest.”
Yoga, meditation, journaling — the Californian uses every New Age tool in the book to keep herself on an even keel.
“I do anything I can to feel at peace with what is going on around me, because it’s pretty hectic,” she said. “This time, going back to the Olympics, I’ll know what is going on more. It’s going to be interesting to prepare myself.”
Anderson credits the regimen with helping her win a silver medal at the 2016 X Games about two months after breaking her collarbone. Now, she’s taking a belated break.
“I am going to do a little healing retreat, give myself 10 days to ground,” she said. “I’ve been busy literally since (Sochi), working really hard on everything in life. Now my priorities are to get healthy, get strong, eat really clean and go shred, have fun.
“I have to rejuvenate my spirit, rejuvenate my physical body, rejuvenate the soul that keeps me inspired to move forward. That could mean going to Alaska and snowboarding mountains or going to beach and surfing waves.”
The break means the next time Anderson will compete is likely the Copper Mountain Grand Prix in December.
If Anderson typifies the free-spirited X Games athlete, Wise is the antithesis. In Sochi, the media never tired of comparing the then 23-year-old husband and father to his carefree peers, even christening him the “nondude.”
If reporters want to repeat that storyline in PyeongChang, the Reno, Nevada native is happy to oblige.
“Maybe people will get bored of the nice, family story and try to dig up some dirt on me or something,” Wise laughed. “Whatever I can do to bring a good, positive story and a little light into the world, that’s what I’ll shoot for, for sure.”
Wise’s persona could be ready for an update. Since Sochi, he and wife Alexandra welcomed their second child, son Malachi, in November 2014. He joined big sister Nayeli, who as a 2-year-old watched video of her dad winning Sochi gold with a stellar first run featuring his signature trick, the right-side double cork 360.
“I think what people have realized is even if I am different for my age, I’m not that different for a person,” Wise said. “It’s not unusual for an athlete to have kids, I just happen to be the youngest athlete in my sport with kids. I look forward to seeing what perspective they take this time around.”
First, though, he has to qualify. The three-time Winter X Games champion would have once been considered a shoo-in, but a shoulder injury has limited his effectiveness in recent events.
“I was competing in pain and I wasn’t mentally as fierce as I could be, because I was struggling with that,” Wise said. “Now, I am really looking forward to starting the season off fresh, strong and ready. It’s not really a thought in my mind anymore.”
Wise thinks the addition of an Olympic qualifying event in early 2017 will help keep him, and the rest of the U.S. team, on their toes.
“The Olympics are right around the corner and we all have to be competitive, since our first qualifier is the grand prix in Mammoth this season,” he said. “Staying healthy is goal number one. I don’t have to win everything this year; I don’t even have to win everything next year. I just have to be ready for that couple of runs of halfpipe in Korea.”
|(L-R) Silver medalist Gus Kenworthy, gold medalist Joss Christensen and bronze medalist Nick Goepper stand on the podium for men's slopestyle skiing at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Feb. 13, 2014 in Rosa Khutor, Russia.
Christensen, too, sees the early Olympic qualifying event as pivotal to his season.
“Last time, we had all five (qualifiers) right before Sochi, and it’s going to be nice to get one out of the way this season,” he said. “At the same time, it makes this season more important.”
It also puts a bit of pressure on Christensen to ramp up to full strength after a nagging knee injury.
“I haven’t been skiing for seven months, so my goal is to get back into it as quick as I can and do well at that first Olympic qualifier,” the Park City, Utah, native said.
“The hardest part for the American skiers is just making the team,” he continued. “You can be the top 10 in the world and still not make the team.”
Christensen knows the scenario well. He was a coaches’ pick for Sochi, selected over the more experienced Tom Wallisch, who was limited by a torn ACL.
“I definitely want to make it (to PyeongChang), but you never know what will happen,” he said. “I wasn’t supposed to make it last time. There could be another kid who pulls through and takes the spot.”
Christensen plans a measured approach, starting with training in Austria at the end of the month.
“If I’m feeling good at that point, I can get back into my tricks,” he said. “The first couple of events it will be kind of cruising, and then I can pick up where I left off. This year will be a test season to see if I can learn new tricks I want to do in the Olympics.”