On February 13, 2014, 19-year-old Nick Goepper made freeskiing history, taking home the bronze medal in the first-ever men’s Olympic slopestyle event in Sochi, Russia, and completing a United States sweep of the podium in the process. Goepper was a standout during the Olympic qualification process, taking home two first place finishes, at The Dew Tour in Breckenridge and X Games Aspen, as well as a second place finish at the U.S. Grand Prix in Copper. Goepper’s string of impressive performances placed him as one of the favorites to take home some hardware from Sochi, and the Lawrenceburg, Indiana native didn’t disappoint.
The Road to Sochi:
Since he took first at the 2013 X Games Aspen, Goepper has been a man possessed, topping the podium in five of the next 10 events he would compete in, while also grabbing two second place finishes in there as well.
Goepper began his Olympic qualifying campaign with a first place finish at The Dew Tour in Breckenridge, thoroughly impressing the judges and crowd with his superior technical tricks, especially in the air.
With one podium finish under his belt, Goepper headed into the next event, the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain. Needing only to finish with a spot on the podium to secure an Olympic berth, Goepper battled light snow and speed issues en route to a second place finish, thus locking in his spot on the U.S. Olympic slopestyle team.
With an Olympic spot secured, the pressure was off of Goepper heading into the next U.S. Grand Prix in Breckenridge. That didn’t stop him, however, as he still managed a fifth place finish overall, and second among the United States competitors. Goepper would choose to pass on the two Grand Prix events in Park City in order to focus on defending his X Games gold in Aspen.
History was made at the 2014 X Games, as Gus Kenworthy would land the first-ever triple cork in slopestyle competition, but Goepper would one-up Kenworthy, tossing a flawless triple cork 1440 mute to close out his run, and secure back-to-back X Games gold medals.
Once in Sochi, Goepper would go on to display his technical expertise once again, joining fellow Americans Christensen and Kenworthy on the podium with a bronze medal finish.
Life After Sochi:
Since taking home bronze in Sochi, Goepper, along with his slopestyle cohorts Joss Christensen and Gus Kenworthy, have enjoyed perhaps the biggest surge in popularity among Olympic freeskiers. The three skiers appeared on the front of a Corn Flakes box shortly after sweeping the podium, and then jetted off to New York City to make appearances on The Today Show and The Late Show with David Letterman.
All three have seen their social media followings skyrocket; Goepper now has over 72,000 followers on Twitter. In regards to Goepper’s growing celebrity status since Sochi, he launched a social media campaign asking the many star struck, young female followers he’s acquired to submit creative videos stating why he should take them on a date. Once The Today Show caught wind of this, they created the hashtag #IWantToDateNick, creating a whirlwind of submissions and fanfare.
He also spent a week following his return touring some major cities in the midwest. Goepper participated in Chicago’s Polar Plunge, jumping into freezing Lake Michigan donning his Olympic bronze medal.
Goepper would also go on to report the weather on a local Cincinnati news station, shake hands with the Governor of Indiana, sit courtside at an Indiana Pacers game, and spend a day being towed around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, throwing a backflip over the finish line.
This week, Q&A with Goepper:
Men’s slopestyle took place fairly early in the 2014 Winter Olympics. You’ve had a lot of time to relish the moment. Talk a bit about life after Sochi, have you had much downtime?
NG: It’s been tons of media and craziness, we went to New York for a week after the event. As soon as I got home I did a midwest tour and went to Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus and Louisville, and went around and told my side of the story. But, as far as down time, I’ve gotten in a few ski days in Indiana, at Perfect North Slopes, the resort I grew up at. They were the best three days of the year, seriously. I couldn’t really get more than two runs in without having to stop and meet people, take pictures and stuff, which is annoying. But seriously, I like skiing in Indiana more than anywhere else.
Can you talk a bit more about, after being on such a big stage in Sochi, what it’s like to come back to where it all began?
NG: It’s amazing, I still feel like the same kid I was, I don’t feel like I deserve anything more, or that I’m entitled to anything. I just want to go skiing and continue to progress myself and work on my tricks. Now that there’s this level of fame that I’ve never really encountered before, it’s definitely a bit weird, but it’s cool. It gives me the opportunity to meet some cool people and try to inspire some kids.
Of all the people that have reached out to you since Sochi, celebrity or not, who has been your favorite?
NG: [There’s one] that pops into my head and stands out. I played pee wee football in fifth and sixth grade, and my coach was a super good guy. His name is Paul, and he reached out to me right after the Olympics. That was pretty cool because I hadn’t heard from him in forever and I heard that he might have been going through some tough times. It was super cool to hear from him, and I just didn’t even know that people like that back home were even in tune to what was going on [in Sochi].
There’s a video of you being towed around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and throwing a nice little backy. Tell us about that experience.
NG: That was really sick. We went up there just to visit and meet the CEO of the Speedway. I was with my friend Kyle, and there was like two inches of snow on the track, and we’re like, “hey, do you think you could maybe tow us around on our skis, that’d be pretty sweet.” [The CEO] was down with it, so some guy with a front end loader built a little jump across the finish line, and the CEO of the track got in this SUV and towed us around the track at 60 miles per hour. The local news station brought a helicopter in and followed us around, it was quite the experience. It was pretty fun, the skiing was fun, we were going pretty fast, but more than anything it was like something to think about, reflect on, be like, “man we did that, it was so cool.” Honestly the skiing was mediocre and the backflip across the finish line hurt like hell because you were landing on flat concrete.
You’ve gone through this mass media storm since winning gold and picked up a huge following along the way; how will you use this platform to promote skiing? Have you even thought about that yet?
I love skiing, it’s my passion. I want to continue to progress the sport. It’s not like I’m going to start some TV show to show freeskiing to the mainstream and put it on VH1 or something. As beneficial to whomever’s career that may be, I’m not really into that. I think [our new fans] will continue to follow myself, Gus [Kenworthy] and Joss [Christensen], and I just want to work on my own projects and continue to express my own skiing, and involve my friends as much as possible. I think at the end of the day it should be about skiing and not puppies or dates.
Talk about the contest you staged, #IWantToDateNick.
The day after our contest was Valentine’s Day. [Gus, Joss and I] were getting a ton of social media play from all of these girls who were saying, “do you want to be our Valentine?” “Will you go on a date with us?” So I decided to have a little fun with it. I’ve got this huge, new social media following, might as well put it to use and see what I can do with it. I started that little contest, and thought of the idea, but The Today Show gave it the hashtag, #IWantToDateNick, and I try to embody hard work, and put time into something to get a result. That’s what the contest was about, whatever girl puts in enough time and effort and creativity into doing their video or picture, would be able to win. Besides seeing what these girls were capable of doing, and there’s a ton of amazing, beautiful girls out there that put in these awesome videos, I really wanted to pick one girl and let them have the total experience of a lifetime. So hopefully the date being in New York City will be pretty epic.
What have you got planned for the rest of this winter?
I’m going to do a couple of more contests this year, I’m going to do The Dumont Cup and then WSI in Whistler, but I want to do a video, another cool video with Red Bull like the one I did earlier this year. I don’t really like filming, because I’m so impatient, and always in go mode. I want to pull back the throttle a little bit, hopefully put out some good edits, and work on my skiing in a non contest setting, and ski for myself. I really want to get healthy, and I’m about to take a week and a half off, go to the beach and surf and revitalize myself. I want to do that, and then take the rest of the season with an approach that will help me get back on the podium.