Joss Christensen thought life would work out a little smoother after he became the first Olympic men’s ski slopestyle champion in Sochi.
It didn’t quite, and now, more than halfway to the next Winter Games, he’s looking at Pyeongchang as a finale. Christensen may do a contest here or there after the 2018 Olympics, assuming he qualifies to defend his gold medal, but the 2017-18 season should be the end.
“This, for sure, is going to be the last push,” Christensen said at the U.S. Ski Team Gold Medal Gala in New York last week. “I’ll be 30 for Beijing [2022 Winter Olympics], and that just might be a little too old to try and keep up with the younger kids.”
Christensen, then 22, led a U.S. ski slopestyle podium sweep in Sochi and dedicated the surprise victory to his father, who had died of a congenital heart problem six months earlier. Christensen hadn’t qualified for the U.S. Olympic team outright that winter but was the one discretionary selection on the roster of four men’s slopestyle skiers.
Following the gold, Christensen actually lost his ski sponsor and went for a period without a full outerwear sponsor while Oakley restructured, he said, citing fewer people buying ski products altogether.
“It’s a big dog fight out there,” said Christensen, an enterprising spirit who recently helped develop slvsh.com, which combines the basketball game “HORSE” with freestyle skiing. (Unrelated to Christensen’s choice of words, he also needed 30 to 40 injections, including rabies and tetanus shots, after a dog bit him in Bosnia and Herzegovina shortly after Sochi.)
Last season, Christensen broke his left hand on the second day of Winter X Games practice in Aspen, Colo (video here). Christensen then bruised his knee and suffered cartilage damage in the second of three finals runs and finished ninth overall, his lowest in four X Games appearances.
Then he separated a shoulder in practice at X Games Oslo in February.
He has a plate in the hand now and also underwent surgery on the long-problemsome left knee in the summer. He hasn’t skied off jumps in seven months but expects to return to competition at the Winter Dew Tour in December.
“It’s been quite a while since I felt confident on a slope course,” said Christensen, who got an Australian Shepherd-labrador mix, Luna, for companionship after all the setbacks.
“I hate the word ‘retire,'” Christensen said. “My plan is to focus on other things in skiing after the next Olympics because I’ve spent 10-plus years doing this now. It’s been super fun. It’s treated me super well. I hope to end on a good note.”Follow @nzaccardi