On a stormy night, American David Wise earns first-ever ski halfpipe Olympic gold medal
Sergei Grits, ASSOCIATED PRESS
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — American David Wise had big plans for his ski halfpipe run at the Olympic Games Wednesday night.
Unfortunately, constant rain and snow made the series of tricks he’d envisioned unleashing during the sport’s Olympic debut impossible.
“I’ve had a Sochi run on my mind for a long time that I really wanted to throw down tonight,” he said after winning the sport’s first gold medal with a 92-point run. “But you guys will just have to wait to see that one.”
He wasn’t the only skier who had to change or improvise, which frankly, is a trademark of the sport. But the weather made the halfpipe slow and sticky, and that resulted in skiers being unable to successfully execute some of the sport’s biggest tricks.
“It’s rough when the conditions aren’t perfect and you don’t get to do the runs that you were hoping to do,” said Wise, whose winning run included a right-side 900, left-side double-cork 1,260, right-side 720, switch left-side 720 and a right-side double cork.
The skiers made modifications to their runs, but they certainly didn’t hold back. Mike Riddle of Canada finished second with 90.60 points, while Kevin Rolland of France earned bronze with 88.60 points. While Wise’s winning run came on his first of two final runs, both Riddle and Roland earned their medals with their second runs.
Wise’s victory wasn’t just about an individual accolade for the father of one who lives in Reno, Nev., and is part owner of a ski company in Utah.
His victory also belongs to the athletes — many of whom didn’t make their Olympic teams — who worked to convince the IOC that ski halfpipe belonged in the games alongside snowboard halfpipe.
“It’s been a long road for freeskiing to get into the Olympics at all,” said Wise. “And I’ve been part of it for a long time, trying to get the recognition we need to get into the Olympics. First of all, hearing the announcement was a huge accomplishment for me in my life. Now to be here participating was a second huge accomplishment. And to be representing as the first gold medalist in freeski halfpipe is amazing.”
Wise, who won X Games gold just two weeks ago, praised Canadian Justin Dorey, who qualified in the top spot but fell on both of his runs in the finals.
“Justin Dorey is one of the best skiers in the world,” he said. “He’s got both double corks, and after he landed his first double cork, I was like, 'Here we go!' So the pressure was definitely on, and I feel very fortunate to have survived that for sure.”
Wise was thrilled with the show the skiers put on for Olympic sports fans, and said it will only get better.
“I just want people to be excited about freeskiing,” he said. “I think it’s cool. It’s exciting. It’s really unique and I just want more people to ski.”
The only other U.S. skier to make the final was 17-year-old Aaron Blunck, who finished in seventh place with a score of 79.40.
“It’s been the experience of a lifetime,” he said. “I really didn’t think 2014 was possible a couple of years ago, and then all of a sudden last year, I thought, ‘This is kind of possible.’ Now it’s just been a dream come true. I’ve just been taking everything in.”
He was thrilled for Wise.
“David has been skiing almost better than anyone else here,” Blunck said. “So it’s been awesome to see. He charges every day, every night. It’s awesome for a guy to come out and have his family behind him.”
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