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Winter Olympics: Indiana Skier Finds Way to Part in U.S. Slopestyle Sweep

The United States’ slopestyle skiing sweep at the Sochi Winter Olympics included, from left, silver medalist Gus Kenworthy, gold medalist Josh Christensen and bronze medalist Nick Goepper. (Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

By Zach Huffman | BSU at the Games

It’s not even been three years since the International Olympic Committee brought slopestyle skiing into the Winter Olympics.

But it is what kids have been doing across the globe at ski areas and resorts for years. In terrain parks in the U.S. from coast to coast, skiers were riding every rail they could find and hucking themselves off mounds of snow wherever possible.

Among those kids was Nick Goepper, a member of the U.S. freestyle skiing team. When he started slopestyle skiing as an 11-year-old in southern Indiana, he was hooked.

Nick Goepper competes in men’s slopestyle skiing Thursday at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. (Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
While Indiana might not seem an ideal place for a skier, for Goepper, a 19-year-old born in Fort Wayne, Ind., it was the only place to start.

While he had a chance growing up to ski near his Lawrenceburg, Ind., home at Perfect North Slopes, the reality was snow and mountains were not easily accessible to him.

So, he grew up pouring water and dish soap down his homemade equipment and used Astroturf to break his fall. And his father took him to competitions wherever they could.

“So, I’d ski all winter. And then I tried to find a way to ski in the summertime,” Goepper said. “I built ski rails out of wood and PVC pipe.”

In addition to his spot on the U.S. men’s freestyle skiing team for the Sochi Winter Olympics, Goepper is a two-time X Games gold medalist.

“It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “I feel blessed to have the opportunities I do. I try to inspire other people to do the same.

“It’s been a pretty fun ride so far and it’s been a lot of hard work. But at the same time, if you love something enough and you enjoy that much, then you can excel in it.”

The Goepper family has adjusted to Nick’s celebrity. His 17-year-old sister, Kasey Goepper, said the toughest part has been looking at the comments via social media.

“You get on Instagram and look at his pictures, and when you read the comments that girls leave below and it’s weird,” she said.

His youngest brother, Jason, 12, says there are some advantages to living in Indiana as a skier.

“Nobody expects somebody that good to be coming out of Indiana because it’s not a big-mountain type and huge, big runs and, like, big jumps and all that stuff,” he said. “But if you work hard enough, it happens.”

What happened for Goepper is that someone paid for his parents, Chris and Linda, and his three siblings—the other being 14-year-old Bradee – to get to the Winter Olympics, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Three U.S. flags are raised at the Sochi Winter Olympics’ Medals Plaza in Sochi, Russia, for the American sweep for men’s slopestyle medalists Josh Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Goepper was confident heading into the Sochi, ranked No. 1 in the world.

“I want to win,” he said before headed to Russia. “That’s my goal.”

He knows about reaching goals. He found a way to grow and compete, moving away from home to attend Windells Academy, a ski school in Welches, Ore.

With such determination, he ended up becoming good enough to compete toe-to-toe with the best in the world.

On Thursday, there were Goepper and U.S. teammates Joss Christensen, a 22-year-old from Park City, Utah, and Gus Kenworthy, a 22-year-old from Telluride, Colo., leading the way at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

He persevered after a sluggish preliminary run. He ended up as part of an American sweep, taking bronze with 92.4 points as Christensen took the gold (95.8) and Kenworthy the silver (93.6).

It was only the third U.S. Winter Olympics sweep in history, with the others men’s figure skating in 1956 at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, and men’s snowboarding halfpipe in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

“I think I just have to sit back and realize how surreal this is,” Goepper said at a news conference afterward. “I think it’s going to give the U.S. a lot more confidence and it’s going to get a lot of people really excited. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to debut the sport to the world.”

97.9 WGRD, Channel 95.7, 100.5 The River, Classic Hits 98.7 WFGR and 1410 AM The Touch are partnering with BSU at the Games to bring you full Winter Olympics coverage! Follow BSU at the Games on Twitter and Facebook.

Nick Goepper of the United States competes in the men’s skiing slopestyle finals Thursday for the Sochi Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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