Olympic freestyle skier David Wise is a maniac on the halfpipe

Published February 9, 2018

COLLAGE BY MAXWELL N. BURNSTEIN.

In the lead up to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang on February 8, 2018, we will be introducing 10 young athletes who will be stealing America’s hearts and standing on the podium.

David Wise is looking to best himself as the reigning gold medalist in men’s ski halfpipe. Coming off of his most successful season since the winter games in Sochi, Wise has the top spot on the podium in his crosshairs.

Ski halfpipe made its Olympic debut at the last winter games in 2014, where the course was fraught with weather conditions that threatened the competing runs. Wise—undeterred—pushed down the halfpipe to complete a double-cork 1260 in both directions to win gold, hoping his new tricks like the switch-right double can land him another medal.

Wise sees himself as a fierce competitor whose technical craftsmanship and altitude off the halfpipe have him perfectly set up as an athlete to remember from PyeongChang.

When I think of winning gold at Sochi…

I have so many fond memories of the entire experience. From the main obstacle going into it (which was qualifying for the team), to enjoying being on the Olympic team and cheering on Team USA in all these different sports (some I had very little experience with).

Being part of the first ever freeskiing team in the Olympic games… 

Led to my winning gold and was one of the best moments of my life.

Currently in competitions… 

There was Copper Grand Prix, followed by the Dew Tour in Breckenridge. For me, Copper was an amazing experience.

The victory at Copper Grand Prix was…

A vindication of all the hard work that I put into the spring, summer and fall. I spent from March of last year working on this new trick called a “switch-right double 10.” That was my exclamation mark going into Copper, and being able to land that well, along with the rest of my run, was amazing.

I approach skiing from the perspective of…

Doing what I want to do on a pair of skis, what I think is cool, what isn’t being done by anyone else. But that doesn’t always translate to good results, so it was cool for me to do something new and have it seen in that fashion.

The competition I’m facing…

This season is the most intense I’ve faced in my entire career. In the history of the sport, there have never been more guys that could win the contest on any given day.

My advantage is…

The amount of time I have been doing this. I’ve seen more runs and competed in more variable conditions then anyone else. I will use any leg up that I can get.

The most important job…

I will ever do is to be a father and husband. If I feel like I am doing those things well—everything beyond that is just a bonus. My kids don’t care if I win or lose, they love me anyway. That gives me the freedom to go out there and enjoy the ride.

Looking back on my childhood…

I wouldn’t say that I knew I wanted to be a professional skier, but I knew I wanted to be a professional athlete. If you never take no for an answer, you have the greatest chance of success. There were times in my life I wasn’t having success or making any money, but I was relentless. I kept taking it on it as a challenge and knew this was really what I wanted to do.

The biggest change coming into this Olympic year…

Is that my training has taken a bigger role in my life. After the last Olympics, my family didn’t see me for about six months straight. I needed to take a step back and spend more time with my kids, and be a dad again. Everyone always focuses in on the athlete and their performance, but the reality is there’s so much more that goes into what I do, than what you get to see on TV.

Going into the Games…

I have stumbled on a really good strategy that worked for me going into the last game: my goal is based around what I want to accomplish on a pair of skis.

LEARN MORE AT TEAMUSA.ORG. THE WINTER OLYMPICS BEGIN LIVE ON FEBRUARY 8, 2018. THE PARALYMPICS START ON MARCH 9, 2018.