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Indiana's Nick Goepper talks overcoming anxiety in pursuit of Olympic gold medal

"I think that human connection is the antidote to depression and anxiety," said two-time Olympic medalist Nick Goepper.

SALT LAKE CITY — Nick Goepper learned to ski in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. He makes it look so easy, yet he's taken it to a whole new level. 

He's one of America's true stars in slopestyle skiing. In 2014, Goepper won a bronze medal at the Winter Olympics in Russia. Four years ago, Goepper landed silver in South Korea. 

Now he's competing in Beijing for a coveted gold medal. He would be the first native Hoosier to win a medal in three Olympics in more than a century.

But behind his impressive tricks and athletic accomplishments, Goepper, like all of us, is human. And after the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, he shared his struggles with the world, explaining he had received help for substance abuse and suicidal thoughts during post-Olympic depression.  

He's since found peace while living and training in Utah. 13News' Dave Calabro sat down with Goepper at his home in Salt Lake City to talk about his battle with anxiety and how he's overcoming it. 

His key to coping is human connection. 

"I think that human connection is the antidote to depression and anxiety," Goepper said. "I don't mean just venting your feelings - that's really important - but really connecting with people, whether that's a spouse, whether that's a friend...even if it's just an animal. Just feeling like you are connecting with something outside yourself."

Dealing with people's expectations to win a gold medal can be overwhelming. Goepper found peace by getting back to the basics and enjoying life. 

"I think, for a lot of years, I was so concerned with being someone else or being cool or just trying to create this persona or...the fear of missing out on something. But now, I am just so proud of where I came from," Goepper said. "And now, I am really able to connect the dots of my upbringing and just use that to my advantage."

Credit: AP
Nicholas Goepper of Lawrenceburg, Ind. competes for the United States during the men's freestyle skiing big air qualification round of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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With a new sense of balance and peace, Goepper has been training for the next challenge. Gold is the ultimate goal as he competes in Beijing but he's keeping it all in perspective these days.

"Yea, the training. Only sometimes does it feel like training, mostly it's just a ton of fun," Goepper said. 

He added that he has a new coach and has been skiing and spending time with people who are filling his cup up with human connection.

"My coach is great...I have been skiing with great people, great friends and just people kind of in my group. I spend a lot of time at my house training, jumping on the trampoline, skating, skiing. I am just busy all the time. I don't stop."

He's not ready to stop chasing gold just yet. At 27-years-old Goepper knows this is a young man's sport and there aren't many chances left to complete his medal set with the big one. 

"Winning a gold medal at this Olympics would be extremely validating for my effort and kind of the whole story...but like I said, it's not everything," Goepper said. "I am extremely grateful for the whole journey and my life has been amazing up until this point and all the people in it. So just stepping back and being grateful for everything is really all that matters."

With a fresh look at life and what really matters, in a way, Nick Goepper has already won his gold medal.

Goepper will compete in the Men's Freeski Slopestyle event on Monday, Feb. 14. The qualifications start at 11:30 p.m. EST. Finals are Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 8:30 p.m. 

 

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