PHOTO BY JOLENE PALMER

What’s the worst crash you’ve ever had?

Winter Olympians make a stop at Lone Peak High School

During a recent U.S. Olympic Committee visit to the Yellowstone Club, two Olympic skiers— Nick Goepper and Mac Bohonnon—carved out some time to meet with the students of Lone Peak High and Ophir Middle School for a Q&A session. Here’s a snapshot of their discussion, in which kids wondered about sponsorship, crashes, food options at Sochi and much more. 

 

Q: How did you feel when you won your medals? 

A: Nick Goepper—I’m really, really competitive and when I won my bronze in Sochi it felt pretty good, and when I won my silver in Korea it felt even better, and I think, hopefully in four years, I’m going to try to win the gold and that’s going to feel great. So, it’s been a steady progression. The Olympics is unlike any other event in our sport. We’ve got the X Games, the U.S. Grand Prix Series, and a lot of people treat the Olympics as sort of just another stop on the tour, and that is true to some extent. But if you have the ability to lay it down on the one day every four years and make it count, that’s something special. And to be able to come away with a medal at the Olympics was a huge relief. I was unable to land my first two runs in finals and landed my third run. That was the one that counted, so the pressure was on.

 

Q: What is the coolest part of going to the Olympics?

A: Mac Bohonnon—I think the coolest thing about going to the Olympics is getting to meet people and going to different events after you compete, and not only athletes from the U.S. but from other countries as well. And getting to learn about so many different sports. It’s unreal to see how many athletes come together who have all shared this dream of competing in the Olympics and, all of a sudden everyone is there, their dream has come true. It’s a pretty special feeling to get to meet other people and learn about their story and their sports.

 

Q: What is the craziest trick you can do?

A: Goepper—It’s… probably just… calming my mom down at the bottom of the course when she watches me do crazy tricks. I mean, our tricks are pretty crazy… My favorite trick of all time is probably just doing a cork 360. It’s one of the easiest tricks out there, and you can pretty much do it on any jump, but it’s one of those early tricks I learned when I was like 16 years old and it brings back those nostalgic feelings… I think it’s something I’ll be able to do until at least retirement age. I’m hoping that’s the case.

 

Q: If you could relive one moment in your life, what would it be?

A: Goepper—There was this one time when I was 11, I did my first backflip at Perfect North Slopes in Indiana… Doing my first-ever backflip was kind of symbolic because it was like the cool trick, and if you could do a backflip at my home resort, you were like the coolest kid on the mountain. I proved to myself that I had the courage to try it and to do it, but also it was sort of a snowball effect that allowed me to have the confidence to do all these other tricks.

A: Bohonnon—At my first Olympics in Sochi, right when I got done competing, I got fifth, I didn’t make the very last final. But right when I found out I was done I turned around and I saw my family. I’ll never forget the big group hug with my whole family and taking a picture with them. When you’re competing, you’re so in the zone you don’t really notice anyone around you except for your coach. So seeing them in that moment. I could relive that many, many times over again.

 

Q: What’s the worst injury you’ve had while you were skiing?

A: Bohonnon—To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve been really lucky. I’ve never had any serious injuries. I think I’ve had 10 years of injuries in terms that my body’s been really sore after jumping. I had a small back injury, a slightly bulging disc in my back, which caused really sharp pain. In my sport, landing, especially in the summer when we jump into a pool… where you’re dropping from 50 feet into a flat surface over and over again, it beats your body up. I’ve been pretty lucky, which I credit to my coaches mostly. I feel lucky to not be a great candidate for that question. 

A: Goepper—I might be a little better candidate. I’ve broken a lot of bones, been under the knife on a surgery table a few times. I would say the hardest injury to come back from is a bruised ego. And I’m not lying, because you bruise your ego when you get hurt, and when you come up short with your personal goals. I’ve had a lot of injuries up until now, and knock on wood, that I stay relatively safe for the future. You learn that’s part of the job, part of the sport.

 

Q: What do you think about when you’re in the air?

A: Bohonnon—How to land on my feet and what I need to do to make sure I survive. I get that question all the time, everyone thinks, ‘Ah! 50 feet in the air, what’s going through your head? It must be so scary.’ The prelude to the jump and afterwards is the scariest part. When you’re in the air, for a brief second at the end of the jump when you have perfect speed and you know you hit a really good takeoff, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. It’s the most addicting thing, it’s relieving. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I still don’t know how to describe it. But when I’m in the air what I’m thinking about is what adjustments I need to make to land on my feet… 

A: Goepper—I mean, I’m not really thinking about anything in the air. I’m kind of a space cadet. 

 

Q: What’s your worst crash?

A: Goepper—I was in Mammoth, Calif., doing an event there and it was really warm, the course was exhausting because there were three rails and four jumps, and when you have four jumps in a row and you’re trying to do a double cork on every jump you are exhausted. The day of the contest I didn’t eat lunch, so I was physically exhausted. It was a practice run and I was coming in to the second jump about to do a switch double cork 1080 and I came up a little bit short. I managed to stay on my feet but for some reason the contest organizers had put these sponsor banners that are like 10 feet wide so close to the landing, which was probably 20 yards long, and right next to it there was a series of Visa, Nature Valley, all these sponsor banners. I lost control skiing backwards and BAM! just smashed into one of them. I was so bummed, I cut open my arm a little bit, and I was so frustrated, like, ‘Why are these here?’”

A: Bohonnon—At a World Cup in downtown Moscow, there are a bunch of events on scaffolding, which is really cool. It was at night and the snow was really tough so we were skating in from the top trying to get enough speed. I was trying to be really aggressive and flip really fast because I knew I was going to be slow, and I got a little carried away with my flip rotation on the end of the jump, flipping way too fast. I knew it, and I put my arms over my head to stretch and try to do the trick, and it didn’t work out for me at all. I landed flat on my back, my skis didn’t touch the ground. I slammed into the ground, but I got really lucky because it was super soft. But I bruised my lungs really bad, and it got pretty gruesome in the finish area. I coughed up a ton of blood. It hurt to breathe for two weeks, which was hands-down the most pain and worst crash I’ve been in. And it looked really scary, which, you know, I like watching crash video every once in a while, so the video is pretty cool.

 

Q: How was the food at the Olympics? 

A: Goepper—It was remarkable how much amazing food was available to us at all times. I think it’s different for Americans and a lot of the smaller teams because Team USA had a separate house with a separate meal center where the athletes could go so we didn’t even have to eat in the village, we could go to the Team USA house and eat all our food there. There were so many amazing desserts around too, it was hard to say no to the desserts because you know you don’t want to bog yourself down before your contest. 

A: Bohonnon—Solid question. I thought it was pretty good. I’m used to traveling and we don’t get great food at a lot of the places we go. And they had food to accommodate everyone. I love Korean barbecue, it’s unreal how good it is. They didn’t have that in the village, but once I got done competing, I ate a lot of Korean barbecue. I thought that was pretty killer.

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