Ultimate Comeback Story: David Wise And His Second Gold

Mar 16, 2018

David Wise is a decorated Olympic skier who recently returned to Reno after clinching the gold last month during the men's halfpipe event in Pyeongchang. Wise stopped by the KUNR studios to catch up with our reporter Joey Lovato.

Joey Lovato: Alright, I'm here with David Wise. How’s it going?

David Wise: I'm good man thanks for having me on. Appreciate it.

Let's just start off. This is your second Olympics, another gold. Was it different this time? Did you feel more confident about it?

You know, I don't know if I felt more confident, but it was certainly, it was just a totally different journey, and to have ended up with gold medals at the end of each of them is still pretty baffling to me.

Credit Michelle Matus

So, when you're sitting there at the starting gate getting ready to do your run, what are you thinking about then?

As an athlete on the competitive side, I always try to find something to focus on for each run to keep me tied to the moment because it's truly easy to get caught up in what could happen or what has happened already. This time around I crashed on both my first two runs—two out of three runs—it’s a “best of” format, fortunately. Dropping into my third run, my highest score was a 17, and the winning score at the end of the day was like a 97.25 or something like that. I was basically sitting so far from the podium you couldn't even believe it, but that's what’s cool about a three-run format is it’s a “best of.”

This is a newer event—it’s the second time it’s been done. For listeners who may not understand the men's halfpipe, can you kind of give us a little bit of a breakdown?

What makes it unique to other events? You've been seeing, I mean people have been seeing snowboarding halfpipes since '98, I think, so the concept of snow halfpipe isn't new, but certainly skiing halfpipe in the Olympics is new. I mean, the difference between us and snowboarders, a lot of the tricks are similar, but the way we ride the pipe is quite a bit different. We generally carry a little bit more speed and go a little higher. On a snowboard, if you're going backward you're just going a different direction and it’s hard to tell, but on skis when you're going backward, you're literally going backward. It's like a 500-foot long version of what you would see at a skate park. It judged based on the technicality, the difficulty of the tricks you do, how well you execute them, how stylish you look in the air, and how high you go.

You mentioned earlier you had a rough couple seasons before this Olympics. You had several concussions and a dislocated shoulder. How did you recover physically from that, and did that impact your mental state at all getting ready for this Olympics?

You can react to adversity with bitterness and a sort of “why me?” mentality, or you can say ‘Alright, that sucked but I'm going to get through it and keep moving on.’ So that was my approach is like, ‘Hey, yeah, this kind of sucks right now; I'm not having a lot of fun. I'm constantly injured,’ but rather than be bitter about that, I just embraced it and when I got back to 100 percent it felt like 150 percent.

Now, other than the physical injuries you actually had a lot of problems in your personal life, too. I know your sister lost her leg and there was a student who committed suicide. That's a lot of hard stuff to go through. Was it mentally difficult as well to prepare?

It just, there was so many crazy things happening all at once it was, like, the injuries, the concussions were happening, but also the deaths. We just had an era of deaths in our family. My grandmother, her [his wife’s] grandmother, her dad, one of our students; it just was a lot to deal with. For me, I just learned to let go of the things I don't have control of. I truly believe God is in control, and so I was able to just say, "Hey, God's in control of this stuff; I wouldn't have written it that way."

Yeah. With the two years before the Olympics, like the high of winning the first gold medal in Sochi, what was it like kind of going on this downslope for a little while? I mean, everyone loves a good comeback story. How did you come back from that?

Yeah, it was such a strange place for me to be. I've always been an all-or-nothing skier. I have very few second and third and fourth places to my name. Not this season, but the previous season, I had zero podiums, which was the first time in my career since 2008. I just kind of embraced that. I said, ‘Okay, that’s the way that was supposed to be, and because of that I was a lot more hungry.’

Alright, man, well thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Yeah, thanks for having me on, man.

Joey Lovato is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism.