He was the first qualifier for the men’s Olympic freeski slopestyle team, a bronze medalist in slopestyle in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and a four-time medalist (three golds and a silver) in the event at the Winter X Games.
Here’s what you need to know about the U.S.’s Nick Goepper, who’s going for a gold in slopestyle at the PyeongChang Games:
He learned his moves in the Midwest
Contrary to most stories of snow sports success that begin in the mountains of Colorado or California, Goepper learned his skiing and slopestyle tricks on Perfect North Slopes, a 400-foot ski hill in southeast Indiana. He became renowned for his boldness and control while performing triple cork jumps and technical tricks on the rails.
He circulated with celebrities
Following his bronze medal-winning run in Sochi, Goepper enjoyed some time in the spotlight. As one of the three U.S. athletes who swept the Olympic podium in slopestyle skiing, Goepper was interviewed on David Letterman, had his face featured on a Corn Flakes box, attended the 2014 Golden Globe Awards, and asked Taylor Swift to be his Valentine (he later met her at the Golden Globes).
What Could top a Bronze Medal Win for @NickGoepper? Only if @taylorswift13 would be his Valentine! #OlympicValentine pic.twitter.com/hrTfDuBAsD
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 14, 2014
Which led to some tough times
While 2014 was an exciting year for Goepper, the maelstrom of media attention and parties led to feelings of entitlement and emptiness.
“I think after the Olympic sweep I got caught up a lot with the social media and some of the celebrity idea, like I’m a celebrity, I’m super cool, I can do whatever I want and just partying with my friends and whatnot,” Goepper said in an interview with USA Today.
After spiraling into alcoholism and a deep depression, Goepper followed the advice of his parents and checked into a rehab center in the fall of 2015.
He told USA Today’s Rachel Axon that his 60 days spent at the center in Texas were a “fantastic, life-changing experience,” and helped him learn that skiing didn’t have to be his sole focus. According to Axon, Goepper now regularly journals, reads, and channels his time into outside hobbies in order to stay balanced.
He’s a believer
The final element of Goepper’s wellness arsenal? His faith. In an interview with Beliefnet’s Chad Bonham, Goepper said that he wears a cross on his ski goggles during competitions, and the Bible verse he relies on most is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
You can watch the men’s freeski slopestyle qualifying starting Saturday at 8 p.m. ET here. The final round starting at 11:15 p.m. ET can be viewed here.
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