Photos by Nate Abbott. Click above to view full screen.
Click to listen: Gus Kenworthy re: Olympic slopestyle silver.
On Saturday, February 15, sitting on the front steps of the Marriott Hotel in Rosa Khutor, Russia, Freeskier caught up with Gus Kenworthy to discuss his silver medal performance in slopestyle, plus the Sochi experience thus far. The 20-minute-long sound byte is available above; excerpts from the conversation are posted below.
“The first day here [in Sochi] was one of the best of my entire season. We went to the top of the mountain and had it pretty much to ourselves. Literally nobody there except for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams, like 12 of us, riding around, untouched powder. I mean, the vertical here, it’s not super high in elevation, but it’s got some steep drops and awesome terrain. It was incredible. Our coach, Skogen [Sprang], was joking to me, like ‘Dude, we should have been filming, you could have shot an entire video part today.’ Just ’cause Bobby [Brown], and Joss [Christensen] and I were just sending it. I think I did the biggest cork 7 I’ve ever done in the backcountry, off a cornice, on my fricken’ park skis. I was stoked, I chucked a double off a cat track. We were all just going crazy, it was really fun… definitely one of the best days of my season and I think it set the tone for the trip, just, carefree, fun, and it took a lot of pressure off. I think we were all kind of nervous getting here, and we were worried about maybe it being bleak, and it certainly wasn’t on that first day.”
“There were a lot of nerves going on. I had a really hard time sleeping the night before [the contest]. I was just kinda lying there wide awake, and I would fall asleep, and wake up in a panic that I had missed my alarm, and I dreamt that I missed the contest, and then I’d realize that I’d been asleep for 15 minutes, and nothing had happened, so it was a lot of that all night. But, I finally did wake up, my alarm went off at about 6:00 a.m. and it was totally dark outside… We had mixed emotions, we were all very excited to go, we’d waited for so long that it was just a relief knowing that we were going to compete today, and it was going to be done at the end of the day, but that being said, we all knew it was going to be done at the end of the day, so that was a heavy feeling, we were all nervous.”
“[On the morning of competition], the sun just started peeking out behind the mountains. When we looked down the course, this beautiful sunrise happened with insane colors, I was like, ‘You know what? I know this is going to be an awesome day, regardless of how things go down. I know that this is going to be incredible, our sport is finally getting showcased to the Olympics, brought to the world stage, this course is incredible, the weather couldn’t be better, we all have great runs, this is going to be a great show.’ I just felt really good about it, not even just for myself, but just, for what was going to happen. I knew it was going to be really big for skiing.”
“It was an incredible feeling to land that run… I was waiting for my score, I’m looking around, I’m seeing my friends: friends at Freeskier, my agent, friends from Team USA, people from Nike… it was just incredible for me, and everyone started chanting ‘USA, USA!’ and I kinda started getting choked up, and my score came in, and I moved into second, and I just knew in that moment that I had done exactly what I came here to do. I had landed a run, I had put down the run that I wanted to do, I felt pretty confident that it would hold for a medal, and I just started crying. I couldn’t even contain it, I had to put my goggles back on, I felt like a wuss, but it was literally the most emotional thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“I did have this fear throughout the whole [Olympic] qualifying process, that going for both events for the U.S. [slopestyle and halfpipe], where both fields are so stacked, I was worried that I would risk not making [either team], and the fact that I was focusing on both, I think I was taking away from each of them a little bit—I wasn’t really giving 100% to either, because I had to split my time, so I was nervous about making the [U.S. Olympic freeskiing] team. I qualified for both [slope and pipe, though]. I hit the objective criteria for both, unfortunately for me I was the fourth spot for pipe, and they gave that spot to Torin [Yater-Wallace], and that was sort of a bummer for me, but I know he’s a super good pipe skier and I can understand that… I’m just glad I was able to make the slope team and make the podium here, but we’ll see what the future holds. I don’t know if I was planning on doing pipe and slope forever, at some point I knew I’d kind of have to pick one and stick with it if I wanted to stay on top. Maybe we’re at that point, maybe we’re not.”
Coming soon: Q&A with slopestyle gold medalists Joss Christensen and Dara Howell.