Lawrenceburg's Goepper goes for slopestyle gold
Indiana's own Nick Goepper is ready to put on a show at the Sochi Olympics.
Goepper got his start on the Perfect North slopes in southeastern Indiana. He brought home a gold in the X Games in Aspen and is now going for gold in Sochi.
Goepper went from a rookie to watch, to being first in the world in the time most people his age start and finish high school. He earned repeat gold in freestyle skiing slopestyle in Aspen, four days before he took off for Sochi.
"My secret weapon is just enjoying myself everyday and my specialty is slopestyle," Goepper said.
He is 19 years old and his success in the mountains is unusual for a boy who grew up in the Midwest.
"I get it all the time. 'Indiana? There are ski areas in Indiana?'," Goepper said.
He says his favorite place to ski is his home resort, Perfect North.
"You can probably double your practice laps here in the Midwest with a terrain park with one jump versus what you can accomplish out west," said Nick's father, Chris.
Perfect North is just five miles from the Goepper family home in Lawrenceburg, but these days, Nick doesn't get back very often.
"I'm in a different place every week, a different country every week during the winter and the travel schedule is hectic," he said.
"He really has still maintained that Nick," said Linda Goepper, Nick's mother. "I don't have a superstar when he comes home, I have a very tired teenager," with, she says, the same "100 percent or zero" characteristic he's displayed since he was a toddler.
Young Nick would wear himself out, often by jumping, whether on the mini-trampoline in the family room, off a diving board, or eventually, on skis.
"I just couldn't get him off the terrain park," Linda said. "I'd pick him up and he wouldn't have gone into the lodge, he wouldn't have eaten anything, he wouldn't have had anything to drink and he was completely dehydrated and just loopy at times. He does the same thing now."
Nick would push for variety by sliding down the hand rails at school. He built ramps and rails in the backyard with whatever was around year round.
"He's always striving to be better," his mother said.
"I couldn't thank my parents enough for letting me go ahead with my crazy ideas like skiing in the backyard in the summertime," Nick said.
"People don't understand this, but the gut wrenching part was having him home. It was so hard having him home. We couldn't afford to get him out west, he had this dream that he couldn't pursue," Linda said. "He didn't know how to get there, we didn't know how to get him there. That was gut wrenching."
But at 15, Nick caught a break with a scholarship to Windell's Ski Academy in Oregon. He moved there and finished high school online. His career quickly took off and his success led to deals with major sponsors.
In January, he qualified for the Olympics, which led to an invite to the Golden Globes and meeting Taylor Swift and U2.
"I'm not doing this for fame or money or just to win everything. I'm just doing it because I love it and I get that sense of accomplishment when I do well in a contest," Nick said.
"I can't tell you the number of phone calls I got when he was 10 out at the ski resort and he said, 'Mom, I just learned a new trick.' He still calls me, no matter where he is in the world, 'Mom, I just learned a new trick.' It's the same words, same goal," Linda said. "So for him, he loves the competing, but it's all about that next challenge. What can he do to challenge himself and it's about the next trick."
His parents believe Nick has the trick to get the gold medal in Sochi.
"Nick will win. He's going to win," Chris said. "I just think all the things are in place."
"It's totally my dream and it's what I have wanted to do since I was three years old and I found a passion and worked really hard and found a way to make it work, so I couldn't be more blessed," Nick said.
The men's slopestyle qualifications will be held Thursday, February 13.