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Nick Goepper to be Indy 500 Grand Marshal, continuing Olympic tie-ins

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Nick Goepper, a two-time Olympic ski slopestyle medalist, will be at least the second Olympian to be the grand marshal of the Indy 500.

Goepper, an Indiana native, will give the command for drivers to report to their cars during pre-race ceremonies. In 2015, Olympic champion gymnast Nastia Liukin was the Indy 500 Grand Marshal, taking a parade lap around the 2.5-mile oval before the start.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong drove the Indy 500 pace car in 2006.

In 2014, Sochi medalists figure skater Gracie Gold, bobsledder Steven Langton and Goepper made VIP appearances at the Great American Race. Triple Olympic medalist bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor tweeted that she will also be at Sunday’s race.

Goepper earned bronze in the first Olympic ski slopestyle event in Sochi, going in as a favorite, then silver in PyeongChang as a surprise medalist. In between, Goepper suffered from depression, a drinking problem and suicidal thoughts.

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MORE: Goepper, Kenworthy walk away with different victories in PyeongChang

Nick Goepper details suicidal thoughts after Sochi Olympics

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Nick Goepper said he had suicidal thoughts after winning an Olympic ski slopestyle bronze medal in Sochi in February 2014.

“That summer of 2014, I really experienced this, like, emotional distress. And it really just started to slide emotionally,” Goepper said in an X Games interview published Saturday. “There came a point where I was drinking every day, and I was constantly thinking about ways to end my own life.

“I was, like, flirting, with that idea. I wasn’t ballsy or committed enough to actually do it. It was like a really messed up way of saying help me, but without saying it to a friend or a family member.”

Goepper, the pre-Sochi favorite, immersed himself in appearances and activities immediately after being part of the U.S. Olympic podium sweep with Joss Christensen and Gus Kenworthy.

Goepper’s attorney said he suffered from anxiety and depression when he threw rocks at cars in his native Indiana in August 2014, causing $8,000 in damage, according to a Cincinnati TV station.

“He called one night, and he said, ‘Mom, I’m thinking about going to get a bottle of vodka and go sit in my car in Lambs Canyon [Utah] and drink the whole thing,’” his mom, Linda, said in the X Games video. “Lambs Canyon was where another skier had committed suicide [2010 Olympic aerials silver medalist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson in 2011]. I knew that Nick was in trouble.”

Goepper, who won his third straight X Games title in January 2015 and dislocated a shoulder the next month, said he attended rehab in Texas for two months in fall 2015.

He was 11th at X Games in 2016 and 2017 but came back this season to become the first American to qualify for the Olympic men’s slopestyle team.

“We almost lost Nick,” Goepper’s dad, Chris, said. “He almost killed himself, so it doesn’t get any lower than that.”

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Nick Goepper becomes first skier to qualify for U.S. Olympic men’s slopestyle team

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The U.S. men’s freeski slopestyle team has its first member for PyeongChang.

Nick Goepper qualified for his second Olympic team on Sunday as the U.S. selection events start to draw to a close.

Goepper, who grew up learning to ski in Indiana, was on the podium earlier this year at two of the first three selection events for the ski slopestyle team, which enabled him to meet objective criteria for Olympic qualifying. Though he finished just eighth in the first of two Olympic qualifiers being held Sunday at Mammoth Mountain, he was able to secure his spot on the team because no other Americans finished on the podium.

At the last Olympics, where slopestyle made its debut, Goepper won a bronze medal. He was part of a historic medal sweep and was joined on the podium by Joss Christensen and Gus Kenworthy.

Those two are still looking to qualify.

Christensen just returned to competition last week after rehabbing from a torn ACL. After not making the final at either slopestyle qualifier last week, he finished seventh at Mammoth and could be in contention for a discretionary spot.

As for Kenworthy, he took a hard slam in Friday night’s halfpipe final and then did not advance out of Saturday’s preliminary round for slopestyle. He is slated to compete in another slopestyle qualifier, which will be held later today. Kenworthy can still clinch his spot on the Olympic team with a top-three finish in that one.

Another contender for the team is McRae Williams, who was the top U.S. skier at Mammoth with a sixth-place finish. Williams won a silver medal at X Games last year.

While the bronze medal and the U.S. podium sweep put Goepper in the spotlight in Sochi, he is hungry for more.

“To be completely honest, I was a bit frustrated with my result at first,” Goepper told NBC Olympics last year. “I really wanted to win that day, and I went there with all the confidence in the world and the expectation to be on the top. I definitely feel like I’ve got some unfinished business at the Winter Olympics.”

Olympic qualifying for the ski slopestyle team concludes with a second contest later today.

Kenworthy is the only one who could officially secure a nomination in that event, but all other skiers will still be looking to earn discretionary spots on the team, which are expected to be allocated next week.

Up to four men and four women can ultimately be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle team.

U.S. Qualifying Standings

Men’s Freeski Slopestyle
After 4 of 5 Events:
1. Nick Goepper, 160** (QUALIFIED)
2. Gus Kenworthy, 140*
3. McRae Williams, 90
4. Quinn Wolferman, 79
5. Alex Hall, 57
6. Bobby Brown, 56
7. Joss Christensen, 54
8. Willie Borm, 50

Women’s Freeski Slopestyle
After 5 of 5 Events:
1. Maggie Voisin, 180** (QUALIFIED)
2. Caroline Claire, 92*
3. Devin Logan, 90
4. Darian Stevens, 85
5. Taylor Lundquist, 81
6. Julia Krass, 72

**Has met qualifying minimum of two top-three finishes.
*Has one top-three finish.