Summer 2024

American David Wise defends Olympic ski halfpipe gold medal with clutch final run

Fresh off a victory in ski halfpipe at the 2018 X Games, American David Wise arrived in South Korea in prime position to defend the gold medal he won at the 2014 Sochi Games, where his event made its Olympic debut. His progressive run en route to the X Games title erased any doubts about whether or not the 27-year-old still had what it took to win at the most elite level.

But then he dropped in for his first run of the 2018 Olympics — and fell. Stunned, Wise needed to then land a solid score in his second and final qualifying run just to make the final. So he executed a safe run and advanced in eighth place out of 12 skiers.

Wise hoped for a better start in the final Wednesday night (Thursday morning in PyeongChang), but again he fell. With three runs in the final and only a skier’s best score counting, he didn’t face the exact same pressure on his second run, but again he fell — binding issues with his skis.

And so it all came down to his final run at these Olympics, Wise’s final chance to land the run he came to land. Finally, he did it. And it held up for gold.

Wise did four double corks in four different directions (a double cork is when a skier executes two distinct off-axis rotations). His roommate in PyeongChang, Alex Ferreira, took the silver.

Wise then celebrated the way only a rare few in his sport can: with his young family — wife Alexandra, 6-year-old daughter Nayeli and 3-year-old son Malachi. The touching moment was caught on camera.

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With the flawless run, Wise adds to his large collection of skiing accomplishments. But the youth group leader with his wife at their church in Reno, Nev., knows it’s all temporary.

“Skiing for me has always been my act of worship to God,” Wise told Sports Spectrum in a phone interview before the Games, “and as long it continues to be, I will keep on skiing. I don’t treat my sport as something that’s meant to glorify me, I try my best to treat it as something that brings glory to God. I worship the Creator by doing what I was created to do. He gave me the talent and continues to provide opportunities for me, so I’m going to go out there and use every one as an act of worship.

“It probably helps that I can’t really sing and I’m an awkward dancer, so when people ask me, ‘How do you worship God?’ I tell them I worship Him with my body, just in a different way than most. Maybe we as a culture are a little limited in our concept of worship today. I hope to expand people’s view so they can use whatever it is they were created to do and make that their act of worship. That’s what God wants from us.”

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