The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

For slopestyle skier Nick Goepper, the road to Sochi began by ringing doorbells in Indiana

  • Print
Nick Goepper celebrates after being announced to the U.S. Olympic freeskiing team following the U.S. Grand Prix Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Enlarge Image

Nick Goepper celebrates after being announced to the U.S. Olympic freeskiing team following the U.S. Grand Prix Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

ASPEN, Colo. - Nick Goepper's road to the Olympics really began on the doorsteps of rural Indiana, where he rang doorbells, handed out flyers that shared his dream and offered to do odd jobs for neighbours for a buck or two.

And on the school bus, where Goepper took the bulk boxes of candy bars he'd bought and sold them to friends at a profit.

"Easy money. Too easy," Goepper said.

Small little victories, a dollar here or there, helped him raise the money to buy a pair of goggles, eventually a pair of skis.

It bought more than that. It earned him buy-in from his parents, who lived paycheque to paycheque, at best, and couldn't afford to spend money on trivial things.

"They had no idea what freeskiing was," Goepper said. "Didn't know anything about the X Games. I think it was more me showing to them I had the passion to do it."

The kid who bummed rides to the 300-foot mountain near his hometown of Lawrenceburg, Ind., and got his fair share of strange looks for choosing tricky skiing over the more traditional kind — or for choosing skiing at all over the Hoosier state's main sport, basketball — is a favourite at the Winter X Games this week in slopestyle skiing.

His quest for a second straight gold medal begins Friday.

Then, next month, he'll be going for gold in Sochi, spiraling his way down the course in one of the new events at the Olympics.

He'll be doing it in part because he sold his parents and his community on a dream that nobody in his hometown could really imagine might come true.

"It didn't seem like it then, but now, they tell me they had their doubts," Goepper said. "They didn't have much validation about whether I was any good, or just good for the hill I was at."

Goepper's validation started coming when he would hit the road and compete in small local contests in the mountains of North Carolina, West Virginia and Michigan.

With his dad out of work, Goepper's plan at 15 was "to mow lawns all summer and make 35 grand so I could go to a ski academy out East."

Around then, he was introduced to one of the godfathers of the sport — the mysterious, but amazingly effective Kerry Miller — who steered Goepper toward the Windells Academy in Oregon.

There, Goepper connected with Peter Hanley, a former elite freestyle skier, who saw Goepper's broad, lanky build and said the first thing he asked him was "why are you wearing shoulder pads?"

Goepper did not grow up in a ski factory and came to Windells self-taught and a bit bullheaded.

"I didn't like him for a year," Goepper said about Hanley, who remains his coach and one of his closest friends.

While working on an especially difficult trick, Hanley gave him some pointers that started to sink in.

"I finally did it right," Goepper said. "I thought, 'This guy may know what he's talking about.' That helped."

Goepper started winning bigger contests and getting more attention.

"I use him as an example for a lot of the guys I work with," Hanley said. "Everyone thinks everything comes easy for Nick now and he just dominates, flying around. But I remind them, his first time at the X Games, he actually didn't get second like everyone thinks. He got 13th. It's a process. And Nick has taken a lot of hits in the process to get to where he's gotten."

There may be better-known names — Bobby Brown, for one — in a sport making its Olympic debut. Hard to argue anyone's skiing better at this point, though. Goepper secured his spot at the Olympics with a win and a second-place finish in the first two qualifying events.

Since then, endorsement deals have been coming in and Goepper is doing some things stars do — he was on the red carpet at the Golden Globes this month — though not forgetting his roots.

"I wasn't known," Goepper said. "But I guess I was convincing enough to people that they had a little bit of faith in me. I'm thankful for that."

Notes: Switzerland's Iouri Podladtchikov, better known as the "iPod," had the best score in halfpipe qualifying with an 88, meaning he'll go last in the final Sunday night. He was followed by Ben Ferguson (80) and Danny Davis (77). Podladtchikov is considered one of the top threats at the Olympics to Shaun White, who is not competing this week. IPod has a double-cork 1440 in his arsenal, which he did not use Thursday. ... Lindsey Jacobellis had the second-best qualifying time in snowboardcross, behind only Canada's Dominique Maltais, who won bronze at the Turin Games in 2006. ... Two-time Olympic gold medallist Seth Wescott, still on the bubble for a spot on the Olympic team, qualified 17th. Also making it through: 45-year-old Shaun Palmer, the man widely credited with creating snowboardcross.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Chief justices breakdown cameras in courtroom project

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Standup- Morning Fog. Horse prances in field by McPhillips Road, north of Winnipeg. 060605.
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What Western Conference teams will emerge from the first round of the NHL playoffs?

View Results

Ads by Google