Sochi Olympics 2014: Joss Christensen Talks Men’s Ski Slopestyle Victory

Joss Christensen does.

Determined by the news, the 22-year-old freestyle skier from Salt Lake City made it his goal to compete in what was now the biggest stage for his sport, but a difficult batch of qualifying events left his dream in question.  However, he managed to squeak in at the final event – and it paid off.

Christensen had only made the podium a couple of times — never at an X Games. To most he appeared to be an underdog at Sochi – but as you know, the rest was history.  What was even more impressive – and special, for Christensen – was the fact that his USA teammates joined him on the podium, pulling off a sweep in the event.  That was just over a week and a half ago.

All this time later, Christensen remains in awe of his accomplishments and in speaking with him it’s clear the excitement and appreciation are just as evident as when he was celebrating in the snow.

CraveOnline: Does it feel real yet?

Joss Christensen: It’s slowly starting to feel more real every day.  The first week, almost week and a half, it was just so surreal and I couldn’t believe it.  I’d wake up in the morning and have to touch the medals to make sure that it was real. [Laughs]

Crave: You killed it on that first run in the finals, what was going through your mind?

Christensen: Thank you.  I was just really nervous.  It’s always good to put down on your first run, it’s pretty important because I knew since qualifying that I was going to be dropping last and I didn’t want to have all the pressure on me for my second run.  It felt really easy on the way down and I was just so nervous – my mind was spinning the whole way.

Crave: How awesome was it for you when you found out that Gus [Kenworthy] and Nick [Goepper] also made the podium?

Christensen: It was amazing!  I mean, I knew Gus was in second and Nick was in third until the person before me dropped and so I didn’t know if the second to the last guy bumped either of them out until I got to the bottom, so when I got to the bottom and saw that they were both there, it was just so amazing and so cool to just see both my teammates waiting there.  It was something I couldn’t have asked for better people to share it with.

Crave: What’s it like when you get that medal and you’re just standing there and you hear the National Anthem playing?

Christensen: It was probably the most enjoyable and memorable experience of my life.  Looking to the left and looking to the right and seeing two fellow Americans and three American flags and hearing the anthem and knowing  it was playing because of me and because of us was just – it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.  It was an excitement that I’ll never feel again – it was such a high!

Crave: Can you describe your relationship with Gus and Nick before, and since, sweeping the podium?

Christensen: Gus and I have been really good friends since we were about 12 and we’ve been traveling the world and skiing together ever since.  He’s one of my best friends and we’ve spent so much time together over the past 10 years and it’s so cool to be skiing with him.  Nick, I met Nick about four years ago.  I haven’t spent a lot of personal time with him but I deal with Nick a lot at the contests and I spend a lot of time with him now since the Olympics.  It’s been crazy, it’s been cool and it’s been awesome to experience it together and we have been hanging out and we’ve all gotten really close.

Crave: What did you think overall of the hospitality and the whole experience of the games in Russia?

Christensen: For me, between the athlete village and the skiing, it was an awesome place.  Our hotel was cool, you know, it was like a dorm room.  We didn’t have any problems – the water was maybe a little dirty at first, but besides that it was nothing less than what I was expecting.  We were treated really well over there and you can tell the athletes are really respected and it’s such an amazing place over there.  I was definitely a little tentative at first on going out and going around town, just because of the security.  I was definitely nervous for the first week and once I realized everything was under control, I didn’t think about it and it was actually pretty safe.

Crave: With all that going on, was it difficult to stay focused?

Christensen: Not for us, I mean, our athlete village was away from the public, up in our own bubble on the mountain.  We kind of just hung out in our hotel.  It was a pretty relaxing time.

Crave: Did you get a chance to watch any of the other action and see your fellow athletes?

Christensen: I was able to watch skiing women’s slopestyle and snowboard men’s slopestyle live and then in our hotel we had a Team USA lounge and we had a lot of TVs that were live-streaming the events and that’s where I watched most of the events, on the live stream.  Sage [Kotsenburg], one of my best friends, won men’s snowboard slopestyle, so that was one of the happiest days of my life leading up until my contest.

Crave: Did you get a chance to walk in during the opening ceremonies?

Christensen: Yes, the second we walked out from under the stage into the stadium was one of the craziest feelings I’ve ever experienced. To see the stadium and so many people [pauses]…

Crave: You probably met a lot of athletes, were there any you were in awe of?

Christensen: I mean, I kind of met Shaun White before, but it was cool to meet him and I met Lolo Jones, who was pretty cool.  We weren’t really able to see a lot of the athletes that we don’t get to see because there was a split in the three villages – between the coastal village, the mountain village and tinder.

Crave: Gus made headlines, at least here in the U.S., with adopting the dogs.  Did you take any home – do you have a new best friend?

Christensen: [Laughs] No, I wish.  Gus, that was all Gus – for the most part.  He’s giving them all to his family and keeping them, that’s where they’re going.

Crave: Looking back, how difficult was your journey to Sochi?

Christensen: It was a really long year for me and I just had my goal for the past two years which was to just make it to the Olympics.  I had a pretty rough qualifying season, starting in December.  I didn’t do as well as I hoped in the first two qualifying events and then had to pull out of the third event because I cut my knee up and smashed it pretty hard and couldn’t ski for about a week and a half.  I kind of lost hope at that point and then I knew I had to win the last qualifying event and I did.  It just played out that I was able to snag the last Olympics spot by just five points.

Crave: And how excited were you when you found out slopestyle was going to be in the Olympics?

Christensen: I remember – it was July 4, three years ago.  I was just hanging out at the park with all my friends and I got a text, or saw on the internet, that they decided to add it to the Olympics and that was crazy.  I was so excited, I mean, it meant our sport was going to get bigger and I just instantly thought that I had to make it there.

Crave: So what’s next for you, there’s not much better than gold at the Olympics, are you going to take some time off, or heading back to the powder, or doing the media tour – what’s up?

Christensen: Yeah, we’ve been doing a bunch of media stuff here in New York for the last week and I’m heading home tomorrow, luckily.  I’ve just been antsy and itching to get back on snow and to get in my skis because I haven’t been on skis since the day of competition.  My plans are just to ski now and have as much fun as I can but also a few more competitions before the season ends.

Crave: And then start training for Korea, right?!

Christensen: Yea, I guess so.  I originally wasn’t thinking if that was going to be a mindset for me but after these games, I definitely want to try to make one more!

Ed Miller is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Henrik Lampet