By Gary R. Blockus | Jan. 21, 2018, 3:03 p.m. (ET)

 

It’s official: Nick Goepper is returning to the Olympics.

And he hopes to improve upon his bronze medal when he competes at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 in a few weeks.

The 23-year-old is the first U.S. men’s slopestyle skier to meet the objective criteria for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team of two podiums. He has struggled to reach the podium consistently since his performance at the 2014 Olympics, until this season.

He was second at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colorado, last month and again second at the Snowmass Toyota U.S. Grand Prix stop last weekend. Once no U.S. men finished on the podium at the Mammoth Mountain grand prix, his spot on the team became official.

Goepper, who was part of a Team USA sweep in Sochi when slopestyle made its Olympic debut, wanted to ski so badly when he was young that he and his dad used to scrounge through scraps at construction sites in his hometown of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, in order to build ramps, rails and jumps in his yard.

He is a five-time Winter X Games medalist, which includes winning the 2017 X Games Norway.

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Goepper finished eighth in Sunday’s Mammoth Mountain competition, the fourth of five Olympic qualifiers, with the final one to be held later in the day. Fellow Americans McRae Williams, Joss Christensen and Bobby Brown Bobby finished sixth, seventh and 11th, respectively.

In the women’s competition, 17-year-old Caroline Claire earned her second world cup podium of the season and first Olympic qualifying podium.

Claire, from Manchester Center, Vermont scored 85.00 on her first of two runs to take third. Norway’s Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen won with a 90.60 on her first run, followed by Sweden’s Jennie-Lee Burmansson with an 88.60 she hit on her final run.

A bronze medalist at both the 2015 and 2017 junior world championships, Claire was also third at a world cup in Stubai, Austria in November after earning her first podium last season.

Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.