David Wise celebrates after winning gold at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 22, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
NEW YORK – The red carpet at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard New York Gold Medal Gala was actually a glowing white earlier this season in Midtown Manhattan, an ode to the snowy slopes that some of the great U.S. Olympians have dominated over the past year.
But as stars such as Lindsey Vonn, David Wise, Red Gerard, Jessie Diggins and more made their way down it, they didn’t need any help in feeling at home on the “snow,” for post-Olympic life has been a whirlwind of just this: interviews, cameras in their face, sponsor appearances, speeches, hand-shaking and, of course, plenty of selfie-taking.
“The Olympics were truly life-changing. Everything about it, from the hometown support to walking down the street and having people recognize me to all these different doors that have opened,” explained Kyle Mack, the snowboarder who won silver in big air in PyeongChang. “Honestly it’s stuff I never even imagined from being a snowboarder. Everything has gone a whole 180 – it’s crazy.”
The ski and snowboard community gathered in late October at the gala to help raise funds for athlete training, with 650 people in attendance and nearly $2 million being raised.
Diggins, the cross-country skier who won America’s first-ever gold in that sport with teammate Kikkan Randall, delivered the keynote address for the night, something she had practice in doing from speaking to the Minnesota Vikings about her training journey a few weeks prior.
“They’re big guys!” Diggins laughed in talking about the NFL team, herself a Minnesota native. “But we’re all athletes. We’re similar in that way.”
“I went through two months of mayhem with a bunch of media, interviews and events,” said Gerard, who appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” days after his shocking triumph. Gerard said it all happened too fast for him, in a way, particularly on the hill in South Korea, where he made his final run, was declared winner, and then everything was a blur.
“I was just at my parents’ house in Colorado and I was saying how I wish I could have a time machine of sorts, where I could go back to the Olympics and look at it all through a third eye,” he said. “Just because it went by so fast. I had no idea when I was dropping my third run that I was going to win. After that, I got taken straight into media… and then it was madness. I definitely think about the Olympics a lot.”
It’s a green light for all these athletes to compete this season, including Gerard, Vonn, Diggins, Wise, Mack and Brita Sigourney, who won bronze in the halfpipe skiing. (Shaun White did not walk the white carpet, though he announced in July that he is considering a run at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in skateboarding.)
An Olympian for the second time and medalist for the first, Sigourney, a college grad from California, said her life is surprisingly still the same post-PyeongChang. And she’s very happy with that.
“My life hasn’t changed very much,” she told TeamUSA.org. “You can work it how you want, and for me, I’m just so grateful to have my Olympic medal. I love skiing and that’s why I do it. I just want to keep on skiing.”
And where does she keep that bronze? “Usually it’s in a ski goggle bag,” she said. “In my room.”
Sigourney echoed sentiments of the rest: “I just want to get back” on the hill this season. And aside from Vonn, who is racing in her final competitive (full) season, many have their eyes trained on Beijing 2022 and the next Winter Olympics, though the focus now is on what’s in front of them and the hard work that it requires.
A freestyle skier, Wise defended his Sochi halfpipe gold successfully in PyeongChang and said that while he could rattle off a long list of A-list celebrities and events he’s gotten to meet and be a part of, what really matters to him is the connection to community, himself a Reno, Nevada, native.
“A lot of people seek financial and worldly success or meeting famous people, but my favorite part of everything post-Olympics is coming home,” Wise said. “Between the two Olympics I have two different ‘David Wise Days’ named after me, there’s been parades… so to me that’s as cool as it gets; the people in the community that made me who I am, that’s way more important.”
Wise recalled coming into contact with one such community member post-PyeongChang.
“I was at the gym and I bumped into one of my coaches from elementary school and he was like, ‘Hey, do you remember when I used to coach you?!’” Wise said, cracking a smile. “I didn’t recognize him, but once he said where and when he was a part of my life, then I remembered him. And that’s the cool thing, everyone participates in the journey. … It’s not just my gold medal, it’s ours. … It’s cool to look back at that and say, ‘Hey, this is something we all participated in and it’s for all of us.’”
Something that has been said to Diggins non-stop is the now-famous “Here comes Diggins!” cry of viral commentator Chad Salmela, who Diggins said she’s known since childhood.
“I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard it” after the Olympics, Diggins said playfully.
While teammate Randall bravely fights breast cancer having been diagnosed in June, Diggins is focusing on the current season, noting she wants to bring her best in February for the world championships.
“My plan is to work into the season and peak in February. I want to race well in every world cup though, that’s for sure,” Diggins said.
It’s a plan that resonated across the white carpet for these athletes on this night, which was also a reunion of sorts. Since February they’ve gone a million different directions – usually with medals in tow.
The gala was a renewed chance for them to all get back together.
“It’s amazing when the whole team gets back together,” Mack said. “We’re here for this event and we all get to support each other. We haven’t seen one another all summer, so it’s really fun to catch up on everyone’s story. There’s a lot of stories! It’s been mad fun.”