Joss Christensen's golden summer
After the Olympic gold medal and the talk-show tour and the stories in Rolling Stone, People Magazine and US Weekly, there is summer camp. Olympic ski slopestyle gold medalist Joss Christensen says his top priority for this summer has been spreading the stoke by coaching kids at every camp he can get to. XGames.com caught up with him this week at the Woodward at Copper summer camp in Colorado, where he was busy cramming in on-slope instruction and autograph signing before flying out to California for a day at Woodward Tahoe and then off to Los Angeles for Wednesday's 2014 ESPY Awards ceremony, where he's a nominee for Best Male U.S. Olympic Athlete.
XGames.com: Have you been able to relax at all this summer or do you already feel pressure heading into next winter because of your win in Sochi?
This year I knew it would mean a lot more for me to go coach and hang out with kids than it would in any other summer. I just want to go everywhere and show everyone how much we love skiing and keep the love alive. This time last year, coming into the season, I was really nervous and anxious. I hadn't really broken into the top tier of the scene too much. I'd been more of a top-10 skier and had been getting really frustrated about that. I really wanted to make the Olympic team more than anything, and that's all I focused on. Once everything hit, my world kind of flipped upside down. If anything I feel even hungrier now; I want to do well at X Games and Dew Tour and everything else, but I'm trying not to get too stressed about it all.
Snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg and freeskier Joss Christensen -- who won the inaugural slopestyle gold medals at the Sochi Winter Olympics in February -- visited Woodward Copper in Colorado and Woodward Tahoe in California this week to work with campers and spread some stoke before hopping a flight to Los Angeles to attend the 2014 ESPYS, where both athletes are nominated for the Best Male Olympic category.
What was the most stressful thing about the way the season unfolded last year?
For me all the pressure last year was on making the team in the first place. The truth is there were eight to 10 guys from the U.S. who deserved to be in Sochi, and there were at least four of us competing for that fourth spot on the team right up to the very end. Once I got named to that last spot all that pressure was off and I just wanted to go to Russia and ski my best.
How much responsibility did you feel to represent freeskiing well for its Olympic debut?
I had no expectations of winning or even making the podium, really, I just wanted to ski the best I could and make sure that we didn't present skiing to the world as something that it's not. It was definitely on my mind and on everybody's mind. In the end I think we stayed true to who we are, and I think the outcome was a lot better than some people thought it would be for our sport.
What was it like being in Sochi?
Before the contest, we were the first shipment of athletes to arrive in Sochi and there was just so much un-skied powder. So we were up there jumping off cliffs in our park skis -- nobody brought pow skis, of course -- and I remember at one point I did a backflip off a cat track and went like 40 feet farther than I thought I'd go and just tomahawked, double-ejected, lost all my stuff. ... At that point our coach, Skogen Sprang, was like, "Maybe this is the one competition where we shouldn't be doing this?" But we all kept skiing anyway. That's what we do, you know?
What was going through your mind when you realized you'd be taking a victory lap?
After my first run in finals I got the highest score I've ever gotten in a contest before, and just tossed my skis and cheered. After that it was the longest 11 runs I've ever watched in my life. I'd just learned switch triple cork 1260s in practice a few days before and my plan was to try a switch triple cork 1440 if I needed it. But then my coach at the bottom radioed to the top and Skogen put out his hand out, pumped my fist, and said, "You did it." I remember being so glad I didn't have to do the 1440, because I might have fallen really hard and embarrassed myself.
How have things changed for you since winning the gold?
The biggest surprise for me is just the attention I get now and realizing how many people were backing me. The love -- from my friends and family and fans and sponsors -- has been awesome. It definitely makes me want to go to the next Olympics. Hopefully I can stay healthy and keep up with all the young kids. But I'm taking it one step at a time, and right now I'm looking forward to the ESPY Awards. I got my suit ready and my girlfriend has a nice dress, so if nothing else we know we'll be looking good.