Olympic Gold Medalist Joss Christensen’s Story is One of the Best Ever
Joss Christensen’s Olympic Story is One of the Best Ever
The journey that led Olympic Freestyle skier Joss Christensen to take home gold at the 2014 Sochi Games is one that likely will never get enough attention. It’s one of a very young athlete whose run to glory was unlikely and entertaining enough to have a movie made about it. If you enjoy such stories, then you’re going to love this one.
This interview was conducted by Natalie Pikolich. Follow her on Twitter @npmikolich
Describe the feeling of competing in (and winning) the first ever running of your event at the Olympics
For me, my whole goal was to make the Olympics. I didn’t know how possible it was going to be, but it was a dream come true. I thought when I got there it was going to be more serious, but it was more laid back…I got to ski and hang out at the hotel. The course was really nice in Sochi, which was surprising; I expected it to be smaller and a sketchy course, but it was huge and one of the biggest we ever competed on…it was exciting and really fun.
The contest was all in one day at Sochi. Usually you have one day of qualifying and then get to relax. The contest was at 8:30 a.m. and started off quick but everyone got into it. I was definitely the most nervous I have ever been -- it was one of the biggest contests I ever competed in with how many people were watching on TV too.
How did the competition at this first ever Olympic event compare to previous freeskiing slopestyle contests?
The run was pretty smooth like most freeskiing competitions, but they were more strict about getting an extra run in before the contest. It was a struggle some days with practice -- we either started late or finished early. There were people everywhere, and we had a cable cam follow us all the way down like at the X Games, but it was nicer. There were also three helicopters swarming over us that were following the athletes down the hill and they were rotating filming runs. I never had this before, but the helicopters were so high up I could hear them, but not see them, which added to the intensity. It felt like a lot more going on than usual which made everyone more stoked.
How did you approach the Olympic competition differently than usual as a “Coaches Discretion” choice for the U.S. team?
When I first found out I was going, I felt more pressure to prove myself. I didn’t want to get the last spot then disappoint people since it was also between my three friend. I wanted to enjoy it and experience it.
How did the passing of your father affect the way you prepared and/or competed in Sochi?
It was a really hard summer and I knew coming into the biggest season of my career it was going to be difficult but I was able to stay home with my family (my mom and brother). Going into the season I wanted to stay focused; I tried to see it as a normal season but I was more focused. I would get more sleep, not go out as much, stay conscious about my body and not overdue it, but ski as much as possible. I tried to stay on top of my physical form and take as many days off as needed but ski as much as I could. It was like a normal season but I thought twice about going night skiing with friends or going on a trip before a contest. I just stayed focus and tried not get distracted like I have in the past. My parents have helped me with everything to get where I am and I did not want to let them down.
Describe what your father meant to your career
Growing up, my parents loved to ski (which is how they met when they were on vacation in Park City), and they got me into skiing. Skiing has been a huge part my family’s life -- it is how we would get exercise and recreation. When I started to do park skiing, there was not as much of a future or career path; it was about having a good time with my dad and he would support me and take me to competitions and to ski. It was awesome to have him because it didn’t matter to him if I won as long as I had fun. My parents have always been my biggest fans -- if there was live scoring at a European event they would follow along. I am lucky to have my parents. My mom was a travel agent so she always took care of my reservations and I couldn’t have done it without them. My dad was a big influence, and even though both my parents would question my injuries and if I should keep skiing, they would let me ski and follow my dreams. I can’t thank my dad enough.
What was the coolest thing you did in Sochi?
Besides the competition and skiing, it was going to the USA vs. Russia hockey game shoot out. I got there on January 31st, started early and I had two days of amazing skiing and skied fresh snow. It was a good way to start off the trip with the four of us on the slopes with Coach. At the Russia vs. USA game there were only about 100 Americans so it was all Russians and it was loud with tension. Putin and Obama were also there.
What was the craziest thing you saw in Sochi?
I didn’t see too much. I was in the non-athlete village about 45 minutes outside of Sochi and we had to take gondola up to get there. It was like we were in our own bubble and there wasn’t a lot of security, but we would see the white tents for security guards around.
How was your “hotel” experience in Sochi?
Our hotel was whole U.S. team with others as well. It was like a bunch of dorms with two twin beds and two closets. The water was brown when we first got there because we were the first people to get it moving around and use it so it was gross at first. The beds were uncomfortable, but the ski team got Temper-Pedic mattresses put on them so that helped.
Tell us how you were bitten by a stray dog (where you were, what you were doing, etc.) in Bosnia
I was in Bosnia for about 10 days. There were stray dogs everywhere roaming in packs and one day we finished up early and went to go see the sunset from a castle. When we were walking back to the car, there were a few dogs that ran by and started barking. There was a pack of three of them by me and when I turned around one of them bit me and ran off. When I got to the hospital some of the doctors didn’t give me the shots I needed or have them, so when I got to Maine they put me on different antibiotics. I had to get an instant antibody that was 30 pricks.
How did all the vaccinations you had to receive affect your performance in Bosnia?
I skipped out on a few days, but I felt fine after that except for being a little sick from all the vaccinations.
What experiences did you have with stray dogs while in Sochi?
I didn’t. In Bosnia there were 10-15 times more stray dogs than Sochi because they tried to contain them ahead of time.
Describe the experience you had with the film project in Bosnia
We went over there to do some filming and take some photos in the old Olympic venue in Sarajevo that hosted the Winter Games in 1984 and was run down by the Bosnian War. When we showed up, it was the worst winter in 30 years that they had with no snow so they had to import. It worked out better than we expected, but we were shoveling snow and filming for 10 days.
How was your trip to the White House?
We showed up at 9:00 a.m. and security wasn’t too bad. It was pretty awesome to be on the South Lawn for half an hour where we goofed around and took photos. We got to take a self-guided tour around the White House (where they let us go) like the library and China Room and I got to see George Washington’s sword. During the reception I got to shake President Obama’s hand and hug Michelle Obama. They had a quick conference and at the end they said how excited they were about how we did in Sochi. It was awesome, and they were equally as stoked as we were.