Torin Yater-Wallace Perseveres
Torin Yater-Wallace hasn't had an easy path. The five-time X Games medalist talks about his challenges in an upcoming documentary, 'Back to Life,' airing January 13 on ABC as part of the "World of X Games" series. In the film, Torin and his family discuss the legal and financial troubles they faced as well as the health issues that often have kept the one-time prodigy on the sidelines over the last several years.
"We go into things I haven't touched on before," says Yater-Wallace, 21, who grew up mostly in Basalt, 20 miles north of Aspen, and attended Aspen Valley High School. "It's strange to open up about emotional times, especially with a camera in front of you. It was something I really wanted to share, but I'm not very open about my life all the time."
The ski community learned about Torin early -- he began forerunning the halfpipe at Buttermilk as a 9-year-old during X Games Aspen 2004. "I would go watch every year, and to be up there with all the skiers I looked up to, it was such a privilege," Torin says. "I was just trying to stay out of the way."
But as the doc details, Torin's family's world was shattered just a few months after his first time forerunning when his father, Ronald Wallace, ran afoul of the law, defrauding hundreds of investors in his wine business out of millions of dollars. For years, news of the case was splashed across pages of newspapers and magazines ranging from The Los Angeles Times to Wine Spectator. In October 2004, Ronald was indicted on federal fraud charges. He pled guilty to accepting money for wine futures that he never delivered, admitting he was running a Ponzi scheme. In February 2007, he was sentenced to two years house arrest, five years probation and was ordered to repay $11.2 million in restitution. In June 2010, The Aspen Times reported that Wallace was "sentenced to another nine months in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and 27 months of supervised release" for violating his probation.
Torin's X Games debut came in January 2011, two months after his 15th birthday. He took silver, becoming -- at the time -- the youngest X Games winter event medalist. Ronald watched his son make history on a TV in prison.
Yater-Wallace says his family had to move frequently, struggled to afford a place to live and his mother, Stace, worked a minimum wage job. "Every last cent my mom made she used to help me become a professional skier," says Torin.
And once Torin was successful as a pro athlete, he became the family's primary financial support. "Torin's income kept us alive. That's how we survived," Stace says in 'Back to Life.'
Now, Yater-Wallace is considered one of the most talented pipe skiers of his generation, and he hopes his story touches others. "I wanted to make a movie to inspire someone else who is going through hard times. To let them know you can get through them and still be a skier," he says. "It's not for sympathy, it's more a documentary about empathy and to help someone else."
Despite his two X Games gold medals, he's yet to win in Aspen, and he hasn't medaled in front of his hometown crowd since 2013. But no matter what happens at XG Aspen 2018, Torin will enjoy it. "It's always one of my favorite events."
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