February 18, 2014 Updated: February 18, 2014 at 2:23 pm
SOCHI, Russia – American David Wise had ambitious plans for his final runs in Olympic halfpipe competition.
Then he looked at the course, which had been left ragged and full of peril after a day of rain, sleet and snow.
“I was honestly stoked,” Wise said. “I had couple new tricks that I haven’t really shown anybody yet, but the conditions just weren’t allowing it.”
Wise displayed the kind of maturity that has inspired his younger American teammates to call him, “Dad.” This level-headed approach allowed him to claim gold on a tough night in the mountains.
He’s a different kind of freestyle skier. He’s married and has a 2-year-old daughter. He lives in Reno instead of Colorado. He speaks normal English without liberal use of such words as “radical,” “sick” and “random.”
He drew inspiration from a sign his wife flashed at him from the bottom of the hill. He could see an image of his daughter, Naveli. He responded with a solid, if not spectacular, performance on a difficult night.
France’s Kevin Rolland finished with a bronze, and he seemed exhausted afterwards.
“The condition tonight was really tough, so it was not easy for me,” Rolland said.
He paused and sighed.
“Yes, it was really tough,” he said. “For sure, it was my goal to win, but I find someone who is better than me.”
At that moment, Wise was walking into the press conference. He smiled at Rolland.
Wise was proud to reign as the first-ever Olympic halfpipe champ, but made sure to spread credit. He listened to the cheers of a big group of supporters from America, including many members of his family.
"The Olympics is the culmination of your whole life,” he said. “You don’t just go out there just representing yourself. You go out representing everybody who helped you along the way.”
He scored 92 on his first run when the conditions remained relatively favorable. As the competitors began their second runs, visibility had dropped, and it was difficult for spectators to see the action in the swirling snow.
Wise fell on his second run, which was the norm on this night.
Basalt’s Torin Yater-Wallace failed to make the finals.