A Wise Winner Once Said
In cased you missed the memo, in Sochi, Russia, at February's Olympic Games, American David Wise, the X Games Aspen 2014 Ski SuperPipe gold medalist, did what he does best: He won. With stormy conditions, Wise threw down on his first run, scoring a 92, which held up as the highest score throughout the contest. Canadian Mike Riddle took the silver, followed by Frenchman Kevin Rolland in bronze. We spoke to Wise, 23, after the craziness of the Olympics started to settle down.
So, it's finally over.
It's crazy. You look forward to something for so long and then it gets closer and closer. It's like you look forward to it and it's so far in the future and then, 'Oh, we're in Russia. Oh, here's our first practice day. Oh, wow, we're competing.' And then all the sudden, it's over. It's almost too much for your brain to comprehend. Especially for me, having won the event, it seems too good to be true. Is this really happening? And I going to pinch myself and wake up? It's been fun but it's definitely been wild.
What's it mean to you to have a gold medal?
I'm so grateful to have been a part of the team and I can honestly say freeskiing has made me who I am. I am very proud to have been representing the sport and to be the first gold medalist is the most insane thing I can ever imagine. I feel fortunate as it's the gold medalist who gets to represent the sport the most, to the world. And that's what I'm excited about. I just want to get people stoked on skiing.
How has your family reacted?
My wife and daughter, aside from being over-the-moon excited, are handling it really well. But when you throw in the family who has never experienced something of this caliber it definitely raises the drama level up a bit. Not in a bad way but my parents are like, 'Whoa, this is so crazy. We can't deal with this.' Two weeks ago I was just a skier kid and now I'm able to do things like The Ellen Show. Without the Olympics, it would never have happened. It's a lot of pressure to put on your family.
You, Riddle and Rolland were some of the most experienced in the field. Because of the tough conditions, do you think that experience helped?
I'd say if you looked at the field of skiers that were competing, it was a younger field. My fellow Americans were all 19 and younger. But to have the three guys on the podium be in their mid-twenties, maybe that's a testament to having experience. We've all competed in every condition there is. At the Olympics, we were competing in some of the toughest conditions of the year. You just have to adjust and do the best run you can in spite of the conditions.
Despite the weather issues, do you think the sport represented well for its first go around?
For a point there at the end of practice, I was really worried that it could be disappointing. But then I watched Riddle, Kevin and Jossi Wells, everyone really, skiing well in spite of the conditions. Then I thought skiing will present itself well here. It was cool to see that happen. It's the Olympics, we're all going to go out there and do the best we can.
Were people worried going into Sochi, having not seen the pipe or slope course?
There was a ton of hype concerning the conditions. When you have the X Games, you're riding a course built by Snow Park Technologies. That's a well-respected name within the industry. We've all competed on multiple SPT courses and they are great, plain and simple. So to go into an event -- the biggest event we've ever had -- built by people we didn't know, there was going to be some apprehension. It was a huge relief when we showed up and the slopestyle course was monstrous; sick setup, unique rail features. For pipe, location was the biggest thing. It wasn't the guys who made the pipe who were bad; it was that the pipe never had a chance to freeze. It never got below freezing while they were there. You're basically managing decay the whole time. They did a great job considering.
IOC Rule 50 hit the skiing and snowboard community in the sense that the athletes couldn't wear Sarah Burke stickers and armbands. Did that tarnish anything?
In our hearts, we were all carrying Sarah with us. Despite the fact that we didn't have stickers and armbands on because we weren't allowed to, everyone carried her with them in their hearts.
What's the outlook for the 2018 Olympics? Is it something you'd like to go for?
I'm a huge strategist. I like to make plans and I'm totally cool with it if things change. I'm already looking forward to 2018. What do I think it'll take four years from now? What is it that I'm going to do and where can I go? I'm excited to play the game again. Where is the sport going to go and who is going to be leading the charge? I'm looking forward to it.