Wise victorious on halfpipe for another American gold
By Eddie Pells ,AP Thursday, February 20, 2014, 12:20 am TWN
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- David Wise considers himself a dad and husband first, a freestyle skier second.
That might be why he also became an Olympic champion.
Soaring through sloppy snow and sleet, Wise won the first gold medal in the young sport of halfpipe skiing Tuesday, outclassing a field in Sochi that had trouble with the slow, waterlogged conditions.
Sightlines were less than perfect on the first true soaker of a night at the action-sports venue, but not so bad that Wise couldn't look down from the top and see his wife, Lexi, and the rest of his family members cheering at the base of the halfpipe.
Many of them were holding big pop-out pictures of his 2-year-old daughter, Nayeli, stapled to wooden sticks.
"To see that face looking back up at me was cool," Wise said.
After placing a heart-shaped rock Lexi gave him into one pocket, the 23-year-old from Reno, Nev., dropped into the halfpipe and scored a 92 — a mark that held up to beat Canada's Mike Riddle by 1.4 points.
Kevin Rolland of France took bronze.
That podium pretty much went to form, a fact not lost on Wise or any of the others, who have watched expected results in other action sports at these games get shuffled — partly because of conditions and maybe because of pressure. Shaun White never got comfortable with the tough halfpipe a week ago and finished fourth. Kelly Clark struggled and ended up with bronze, not gold.
"I've been watching a lot of favorites lose this Olympics ... seeing how much pressure it can be and how you have to perform, regardless of the conditions or how you're feeling that day," Wise said. "It's kind of sobering, to say the least."
He had a couple new tricks he wanted to bust out for the Olympics, but because of the conditions, those will have to wait.
Instead, he went with his most dependable jumps: 2 1/2 spins; two flips with 3 1/2 spins; back-to-back 720-degree spins; then another two-flip, 1260-degree move. Some went 14-15 feet above the halfpipe. Most had fancy grabs of the skis that the judges love. All had rock-solid landings that win gold medals.
"Dave is, right now, on top of the sport," said his 17-year-old American teammate, Aaron Blunck. "He's the best. He's proven it multiple times. He comes out in any condition and has amazing fun. He's the dad out of the group. So, no matter what he does, we're proud of him"
Wise is the winner of three straight Winter X Games titles, which, until now, were the biggest prizes in his trophy case.
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