Nicholas Goepper (USA) during the men’s slopestyle qualification of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Thursday. (USA TODAY Sports: Nick Carter)
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — Slopestyle skiers are the newest members of Team USA but Nick Goepper and his fellow shredders are hoping their podium sweep on the sport’s Olympic debut might inspire Americans in more traditional winter sports.
A slow start to the Games for the United States has caused some disquiet back home after the likes of halfpipe snowboarder Shaun White failed to back up their favourites’ tags in the first week of action in Sochi.
White aside, though, the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park has been good to America with all their gold medals at the Sochi Games coming up in the Caucasus Mountains.
Joss Christensen added the fourth on the slope-style course on Thursday with Gus Kenworthy and Goepper completing only the third 1-2-3 for their country at a Winter Olympics.
“Heck yeah,” the 19-year-old Goepper said when asked if he thought the sweep would prove an inspiration.
“I think it’s awesome, it’s a big confidence-booster for all the USA athletes and I couldn’t be more proud of myself and the rest of the guys up here to get a medal in the first-ever debut of slope-style skiing.”
The trio’s sweep followed a similar feat in the 2002 snowboarding halfpipe in Christensen’s home town of Park City, Utah and the men’s figure skating in 1956.
Used to riding as individuals on the professional free skiing circuit, Christensen said he had enjoyed wearing his country’s colours.
“Competing for the U.S. is so cool, we’re really proud to wear the gear with the U.S. on it, it’s pretty cool,” said the 22-year-old, who only scraped on to the U.S. team about 10 days before departing for Russia.
“We can be proud to be on this team. It’s just so awesome to be out here and hopefully the world recognizes how much fun we’re having out there.”
Both Christensen and Goepper said they planned to make the transition from competitor to spectator now their event had finished and were expecting to see plenty more gold medals for the United States.
“For sure, from now on I’m going to turn myself into a super-fan. I would love to go to a hockey game and I’d love to watch skiing halfpipe,” said Goepper.
“I think the U.S. is going to get gold in halfpipe skiing, I think David Wise and Torin Yater-Wallace are both top picks for that, and Aaron Blunck as well.
“I haven’t really followed the hockey scene much but I think we have a pretty good team so hopefully we do well.”