SALT LAKE CITY — Indiana has produced only a few Winter Olympians through the years. It's rare when a Hoosier athlete can make that leap to the international stage.
If the snowmaking machines were working, Nick would be there day and night.
Nick began to use his skis to do more than just go downhill. He started jumping ramps and trying tricks in his backyard It didn’t take long before he was doing flips through the air and landing on the snow below him.
He was a natural at it. On the weekends, Nick and his family would travel to competitions. He was winning a lot!
Goepper made a name for himself in the sport of slopestyle skiing. He won three gold medals in the Winter X Games.
In 2014, Goepper won a bronze medal at the Winter Olympics in Russia. Four years ago, Goepper landed silver in South Korea.
He now calls Salt Lake City, Utah home. It's an easy drive to train.
13Sports Director Dave Calabro went to visit him back in October. Goepper bought a house in the suburbs that has a big garage. He loves to do woodworking.
“My dad was a handyman," Nick said over the loud sound of a circular saw.
He built his own ski ramp and halfpipe in his backyard. He finds peace in his backyard with a tool in his hand, just like his dad.
And what a backyard! It is a big playground, smack dab in the middle of a normal neighborhood. He asked permission from the neighbors before he built "Gepland."
"My neighbors are cool with it. The local kids will come over sometimes and play," Goepper said.
This is more than just a playground. The backyard setup helps him focus on the Olympic dreams both mentally and physically.
"I would say one of my biggest priorities is keeping things light-hearted because once it gets too serious, then it isn't fun anymore. It starts to feel like a job and my performance starts to go down," Goepper said. "As long as I'm always joking and smiling and just keeping things light and fun, it keeps rolling."
The pressure to win can be too much. Goepper has publicly admitted he deals with depression and anxiety. He even told the world press he once contemplated suicide.
But after years of therapy, Nick said he is in a very good place. He said after years of emotional highs and lows, he is much more at ease.
So now, he is in China competing for one more medal. Nick can become the first native Hoosier to win a medal in three Olympics in more than a century.
(Back in the early 1900s, Lafayette's Ray Ewry won eight gold medals in the Summer Olympics in standing jumps.)
Nick is proud of what he already accomplished but wants more.
"I have a Bronze medal from Sochi, so I don't know if you noticed but I have just two colors here. Neither is gold. You asked what I have to prove? The writing is on the wall," Goepper said.
I asked if it was gold or bust for him.
"I mean, essentially yeah. It's not really, because there is more to life than gold in sports and medals and stuff, but yeah. Definitely," he said.
Plus, beyond completing his medal sweep, winning gold has its other perks, he said.
"It would mean that I can invest in more capital and get land," Goepper said, then joked about how he'd go to Home Depot. "You should see the cart I am going to have if I get a gold medal!”
If he wins gold, Goepper looks forward to coming back to Indiana and celebrating with all the people who have supported him through the years.
"It means a lot. I love Indiana. I mean, I haven't been back in a little bit, but all the people, the folks I grew up with are amazing people and helped mold me into who I am. I think the values that were instilled in me growing up in Lawrenceburg were great and just to be able to show them and try to inspire," Goepper said. "Maybe the kids back there ... you can really do anything you want to do. Just surround yourself with the right support system.”
Goepper turns 28 in March. He knows his time on the Olympic stage is winding down. Win or lose, Goepper has made Indiana proud!