Olympics preview: 10 reasons to root for ski slopestyle favorite Nick Goepper

Nick-Goepper.jpg

Image Credit: Sergei Grits/AP

By now you may have checked out slopestyle, the snowboarding and freestyle skiing event making its Olympic debut in Sochi with long rails and big jumps. The U.S. has represented well with golds for snowboarders Sage Kostenburg and Jamie Anderson and silver for skier Devin Logan, but the best may be yet to come.

Nineteen-year-old Nick Goepper drops in Feb. 13 as the favorite in men’s ski slopestyle. Qualifying and finals live-stream on NBCOlympics.com at 1:15 a.m. ET and 4:30 a.m. ET before making NBC’s prime-time cut Thursday. (Click here for results.) He defended his X Games gold last month in Aspen landing a triple cork, a high-flying, death-defying trick Shaun White has yet to lay down in competition in the more restrictive halfpipe. Below, check out his X Games runs — which also include the awesomely named switch double cork 900 Screamin’ Seemann (you cross, then hopefully uncross your skis while rotating) — and 10 more reasons why you want to be cheering for him…and following him on Twitter…and maybe crowning him your Olympic crush.

You’ll notice that Goepper, unlike most of the athletes, is skiing without poles. He’s done that since injuring his hand. “It’s worked pretty well for me so far, I don’t see why I would change it,” he told EW before heading to Sochi. “I’m tryin’ to do somethin’ different. Everyone else skies with poles, so why not ski without them? It’s not like they really help you in any way. I might as well try to differentiate myself from the crowd.”

Reasons to root for him…

Reason #1: He loves his mom and isn’t afraid to show it. “When I come home, and when I’m visiting Indiana in between all the craziness of this pro skiing career thing, I’m not afraid to have my mom tuck me in at night. I’m not afraid to be a mama’s boy,” Goepper says in his video for P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign, which shows how mothers raise Olympians. Slopestyle rewards those who are creative, which is what his mother, Linda, always encouraged him to be — whether that meant doing backflips off a couch or a tree, building his own rails in the backyard, or raising money by going door-to-door asking to do weeding and posting a “Dependable Babysitting Call Nick” sign in the yard. There’s footage of all that in the video below. “I think it almost got me to tear up, but I try to be super tough and not cry. I think I accomplished that and didn’t cry. But it definitely got me emotional,” Goepper admitted to EW. “The ‘Thank You, Mom’ campaign celebrates all the sacrifices and all the support that the moms offer to their young athletes to pursue their dreams, and I just couldn’t really thank my mom enough for that.” (He confesses in the video that when his parents told him he should make a break for an Oregon ski academy at age 15, he did cry.)

Reason #2: He uses entertainment to relax before big events. “I’ll be watching some Family Guy, ’cause I feel like a good dose of laughter is the best way to prepare for a contest the night before,” he told EW. “I’ll probably be watching some type of inspiring movie. Maybe Cool Runnings, that’s a good one. That’s a winter sport movie so it kinda relates.” (And he probably wasn’t joking! See below. May we recommend our oral history of the film, Nick?)

Reason #3: His music taste is… varied. “I’m into Iron Maiden, some Avenged Sevenfold, some Blink-182. On the hip-hop side, I like Eminem, and the Game, and A$AP Rocky,” he told EW. Reminded that we’d spoken to him a few months earlier at an event and he mentioned enjoying the music of Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry, he laughed. “Well, I mean, they’ll pop up on my ‘now playing,’ every once in a while. They’re more of like a celebrity crush than an artist whose music I enjoy,” he said. “Actually, I love Katy’s music. And Miley’s. You know what, I just love everything about those two.”

Reason #4: Even though Forbes has predicted he’ll be one of the U.S. athletes to break out at the Games as “marketing stars,” he’s not thinking about being a heartthrob — yet. “Um, no, I’m not prepared for that, because I’m going into the Olympics to do one thing, and that’s to compete and focus on my skiing,” Goepper said. “My dad always tells me, ‘Just focus on one thing, and that’s skiing, and then the rest will all fall into place.’ Hopefully it goes well, and then I’ll focus on the next thing after that, whatever it may be. If it’s being a heartthrob,” he added with a little laugh, “then that’ll be it.” UPDATE: Perhaps it is.

Reason #5. He competes against his buddies, who affectionately dubbed themselves the #turtleneckgang at the Opening #Sweatermonies. Rooting for you, too, Joss Christensen, Bobby Brown, and puppy rescuer Gus Kenworthy!

Reason #6: He doesn’t want to clean his “Olympic” room.

Reason #7: This is his cat, who has an awesome mustache.

Reason #8: He’s technically already medaled (in our Socialympics) thanks to cute photos like these.

Reason #9. He’s landed a jump on one ski. Granted, not intentionally, but still cool as hell.

Reason #10: Slopestyle is actually really fun to watch if you know what you’re looking for. Here’s a video of Goepper breaking down his tricks.

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