LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Brotherly love led Brad Wilson back to the world cup moguls podium.
At the Lake Placid Freestyle World Cup, 24-year-old Wilson skied two fast, tight runs in the final and super final to land on his first world cup podium in almost a year. And he did it shortly after watching older brother, Bryon — the Olympic bronze medalist in 2010 — injure his knee in a dramatic crash.
“Ever since he crashed the whole lift ride [back up to the start], even in my run, I’m just like you’ve got to get this,” said Bradley. “I was about to blow out [of the course] and said, ‘You gotta fight for it, you’ve got to get it down for him.’”
Dmitriy Reiherd from Kazakhstan won the event on an icy course with a score of 82.20, ahead of runner-up Benjamin Cavet from France, who tallied 80.73. Brad Wilson’s score of 78.08 points rounded out the podium.
Brad returned to competition less than a year ago after recovering from his own knee injury (a torn ACL in December 2014), and he credited Bryon with bringing the fun and joy back to moguls — an attitude that helped him stay relaxed and focused on Lake Placid’s Whiteface Mountain.
“We joke around on the lift, we just relate to each other so well,” said Brad. “We keep each other in a good mindset. It’s mostly him keeping me in a good mindset.”
“I wasn’t worried about my skiing,” he said. “I’m just constantly thinking about if he’s going to be OK or not.”
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In the final, Bryon, who qualified third, was skiing a solid, fast run when he lost control coming into the final jump and flew off the side. When he landed — after what felt like an eternity as he struggled to regain control in the air — he screamed. He slid down the icy course into the finish, and Brad rushed over to him, then helped him off as he put no weight on his right leg.
Bryon won a surprise Olympic bronze medal in moguls at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. But since then, the 28-year-old has struggled with consistency and only made it back to the podium in international competition twice. This year, he was not renamed to the U.S. men’s moguls team and had to earn his way back to the world cup through selection competitions in December.
Meanwhile, Brad dominated the world cup podium during the 2013 and 2014 seasons before tearing his ACL in December 2014.
He returned to the world cup last February and won his first competition. But then he went into a slump of his own this fall and finished a lackluster 18th in the first world cup of this season, in December 2016.
“I was just in a weird mindset,” he said. “It was like another day of training, day in, day out like clockwork. I got into a weird routine of just the same stuff over and over again. It led into the first world cup. I showed up going through the motions, not really worried about the event and not enjoying what we’re doing.”
“I think he was just been putting a lot of pressure on himself to perform,” said head moguls coach Matt Gnoza. “He just needed to find his passion and believe in himself again.”
Right before Christmas, Bryon earned his way back to the world cup through selection competitions in Colorado. And Brad found the joy again.
“You’re on the top of the world stage, you’re one of the best skiers in the world, go enjoy it, quit worrying about the little things,” said Brad. “It took Bryon coming back to us to put me into that mindset [again]. That’s why I say that he’s the reason that I did podium today.”
Gnoza noted that Brad jumped better today than he has in weeks and made a “champion move” mid-course during his super final run, re-centering himself on his skis.
“It’s good to see Brad with his smile back,” said Gnoza. “There was a moment this fall, late in our prep season that he kind of lost his smile and then he linked up with his brother at the U.S. selection event. All of a sudden, you could see the Brad of old had come back, and it translated into some good skiing today.”
But the smile has faded until Brad knows his brother’s outcome, still unknown at press time.
“Bryon’s been there for me to get to where I am right now,” said Brad, “so I’ll definitely be there for him.”
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered four Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.