Pressure in the pipe

You know the Olympics are coming when Kellogg's sponsors a halfpipe skier. Earlier this winter, Torin Yater-Wallace joined the cereal brand's team of American athletes as the company's first and only sponsored freeskier. Yater-Wallace -- 17 and one of the U.S.'s most promising hopefuls heading into the Olympic debut of ski halfpipe and slopestyle at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia -- won the Olympic test event in Sochi this year. We spoke to him from a recent team training camp at California's Mammoth Mountain about the pressure of the Olympics and rivalries in the halfpipe. You've been on the podium in every X Games you've competed in, including a silver in Aspen and a gold in Tignes this year. Do you feel like people expect more out of you now? Or is most of the pressure coming from yourself?
Torin Yater-Wallace: It's mainly from myself. The worst half hours of my life are those half hours when you're standing at the top of the halfpipe and you're dropping near the end of the contest and you don't know what to do. You've got to pee because you're nervous. You're trying to make sure your boots don't get cold. You're deciding whether to watch the other guys. I just try to make the time go away. And when it's my time, I turn on my music, buckle my boots and go.

Mark Kohlman/ESPN

Torin Yater-Wallace en route to a gold medal at X Games Tignes earlier this winter.

How nervous are you heading into 2014 and ski halfpipe's Olympic debut?
I don't want to have any different view of this year than any other season. I usually just ski throughout the summer and have fun and go into the next season and learn my tricks back. I want to look at it just the same as other years. Maybe learn a couple new tricks, ski as much as I can, and do well at the events leading up to the Olympics. But, yeah, it would be an unreal opportunity to compete at the Olympics.

The French and Canadians will likely be the U.S.'s biggest threats at the 2014 Olympics. Is there a rivalry between the countries?
I wouldn't say there's a real rivalry. We all travel around, stay at the same hotels, hang out at nights together. It's not competitive off the hill; we're all good friends. It would be a big achievement to win, but I don't think we're a sport that gets all that heated and competitive.

So there's no rivalry between you and fellow American halfpipe skier David Wise, even though you swapped top spots on the podium a number of times this year?
David and I are friends. I met him three or four years ago and we travel together. With him, he's always pushing me. He'll throw an extra trick that'll boost his score, and I feed off that and try to beat him and it makes me push myself. He's really good, so that puts pressure on me for sure. But he's just like any other competitor at the top of the pipe.

You had a shoulder injury at the beginning of this winter. How is your shoulder feeling now?
It's fully recovered. I had surgery last September and I had a four-month recovery. I could ski just three weeks before X Games in Aspen. I went to Breckenridge with the U.S. team and started to learn all of my tricks back. It feels good now and I'll keep working on strengthening it this summer.

Will you get any time to relax this summer?
I'll be skiing until the end of May. I've got the Sammy Carlson Invitational [taking place this weekend at Mount Bachelor, Ore.] and then I have the month of June off. I'll try to do some vacation stuff and hang with my family, who I don't get to see a lot during the winter.

What's your idea of a vacation?
Maybe go surf a little. Get to the beach. Give my body a rest. My grandpa, who lives in Santa Barbara [Calif.], started a surfboard company that's been around for a long while. He's in his late 70s and he's still shaping boards. So maybe I'll go out there and surf.

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