No ski poles, no problem.
Nick Goepper, an unlikely freeskier from Indiana, won the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships ski slopestyle to take an early lead in what should be a very competitive race to make the first U.S. Olympic Team in the event.
Goepper, the reigning Winter X Games champion, scored 93.00 points in the first of two final runs without poles because of a broken hand. It held up to win despite strong second runs from international stars in Breckenridge, Colo., on Sunday.
“I was just happy that I made it over all the jumps,” Goepper told NBC after his first run. “It’s pretty windy. … I’ll be back with the poles, I don’t know, in a couple weeks.”
Canadian Alex Beaulieu-Marchand took second with a 91.20-point second run. Australian Russ Henshaw was third.
Men’s ski slopestyle might be the toughest U.S. Olympic freeskiing team to make. Every World Championship and X Games gold medal since 2010 has gone to an American.
2010 X Games champion Bobby Brown was fourth, followed by the last two world champions, Tom Wallisch and Alex Schlopy, in fifth and seventh, respectively.
Schlopy is the son of two-time U.S. Olympic Alpine skier Holly Flanders and former Buffalo Bills kicker Todd Schlopy. He’s also the cousin of three-time U.S. Olympic Alpine skier Erik Schlopy, who is married to four-time U.S. Olympic swimming medalist Summer Sanders.
Breckenridge marked the first of five Olympic selection events for snowboarding and freeskiing. The next four events are on the U.S. Grand Prix schedule — Copper Mountain, Colo., next weekend, followed by Northstar, Calif., Park City, Utah, and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
The five events will determine Olympians in snowboard halfpipe and the new Olympic events of snowboard slopestyle and ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle. The Olympic rosters are expected to be announced Jan. 22.
The overall Olympic qualification standings will be determined by the two best results for an athlete over the selection events. No more than four athletes can make the U.S. Olympic Team per event. It’s possible fewer than four will be named for some events.
“This takes off, I’d say, half the pressure [of making the Olympic team],” Goepper said on NBC. “The ideal goal is to get two podiums.”
Breckenridge Ski Slopestyle
1. Nick Goepper (USA) 93.00
2. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (CAN) 91.20
3. Russ Henshaw (AUS) 90.00
4. Bobby Brown (USA) 89.80
5. Tom Wallisch (USA) 89.20
7. Alex Schlopy (USA) 85.60