KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — As the wet snow continued to fall Tuesday at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Center, David Wise called an audible.
The big “Sochi run” that he had planned for months, that he was dying to throw down in halfpipe skiing’s Olympic debut, was out due to deteriorating conditions.
So was the “B” run.
The pipe was so sketchy, he had to resort to the “C” run.
On this day, Wise’s “C” run was better than anyone’s best. He barely carried enough speed into his final hit to attempt the right-side double-cork 1260, but he landed it perfectly.
He raised his arms in triumph of what would be a gold-medal winning run.
“It’s been a long road for freeskiing to get into the Olympics at all, and I’ve been part of it for a long time, trying to get the recognition that we need to get into the Olympics and get the nod. … To be representing as the first-ever gold medalist in freeski halfpipe is amazing.”
Canadian Justin Dorey had one last shot to unseat Wise from the gold-medal spot. He landed a double-cork 1260, but fell on his third hit.
Veteran Mike Riddle, of Canada, won silver, and Frenchman Kevin Rolland took the bronze.
Wise’s wife, Alexandra — holding a giant cut-out of their 2-year-old daughter, Nayeli, who didn’t make the trip to Russia — his twin sisters, Christy and Jessica, and his parents, Tom and Kathy, burst into celebration.
“We brought Nayeli, kind of,” Alexandra said. “She has to be here.”
Wise, of Reno, Nev., is a father, husband and youth group leader. His teenage teammates call Wise, at 23 years old, “Dad.” Wise is not your typical freeskier, but now is the face of the sport as it’s exposed to a whole new audience as an Olympic discipline.
“I just want people to be excited about freeskiing,” he said. “I think it’s cool, it’s exciting, it’s really unique, and I want more people to ski.”
Wise grew up in Reno, ski racing around the Tahoe area with his sisters on the Mount Rose and Alpine Meadows ski teams.
“His coaches would always get mad because he was off in the park screwing around,” Christy said.
“He would cut out of the race course so he could hit the jump at the bottom,” Jessica said.
He finally convinced his dad to let him go half-time, then full-time, to freestyle.
Wise had some success — winning smaller competitions but not the big ones — but really put things together after he got married and had a baby.
“Being a dad has really changed my approach to life in general,” Wise said. “I think it’s more important to be a good husband and father than to be a great skier. It kind of takes the pressure off. I can come out here and do what I love to do and they support me.”
Ski and Snowboard Club Vail athlete and Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy student Aaron Blunck, of Crested Butte, finished seventh. He reflected on the positives of his journey, saying he was thrilled to be part of the Olympics.
“For the debut of freesking, it’s just going to make everything bigger and better, and I hope to see a lot more kids doing the sport,” he said.
Aspen’s Torin Yater-Wallace didn’t make finals after failing to put together a clean run.
“Not my night, but was freeskiing’s,” he tweeted.