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How An Indiana Skier Became The Face Of A New Olympic Sport

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    Photo: Sunday River

    Nineteen-year-old Nick Goepper is at the Sochi Olympics to compete in ski slopestyle.

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    Photo: Team USA

    USA Olympic team member Nick Goepper is one of the athletes favored to win the gold medal after his first place finish in the X Games.

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    Photo: Linda and Chris Goepper

    Nick Goepper grew up in Lawrenceburg, Ind. where he learn to ski when he was five-years-old. When he learned how to jump on skis, his dad says, "he was hooked."

The slopestyle competition has concluded. You can find Nick Goepper’s results here.

A new sport called ski slopestyle is being included in the winter Olympics, which kicks off today. At its most basic level it’s skiing with tricks, and as it’s has become more popular, one skier from Indiana has become somewhat of a spokesman for the sport, explaining what it is and how it’s changing.

Nick Goepper, 19, grew up skiing at Perfect North Slopes in Lawrenceburg, Ind., just a few miles west of Cincinnati.

It’s not the kind of place you expect a major skier to come out of.

“I talked to a couple of nationally recognized coaches and they said Mr. Goepper you have three strikes against you,” Nick’s dad Chris Goepper says. “I said what’s that? And they said he’s from the Midwest, number one. Number two, he’s from the Midwest. And number three, he’s from the Midwest.”

But Nick Goepper was determined.

Perfect North Slope Manager Tim Doll says he’s been watching Nick ski since Nick was 12 years old. He says Nick would come out every day there was snow on the ground and ski for hours.

“Everybody kind of gets a chuckle from the Midwestern guy coming from a ski area with a 400-foot vertical drop but that’s a great thing and that was an advantage for him that he could get out here on a daily basis and make laps after laps,” Doll says.

Goepper still skis at Perfect North when he comes home, but he spends most of his time at larger slopes on the east and west coasts now.

His story began when he was 5 years old and he learned to ski. As his dad tells the story, Goepper “got hooked” on skiing when he learned he could go off jumps.

After teaching himself tricks using ski videos, Goepper won 1st place in an amateur competition when he was 11 years old. He gave his highlights reels to scouts there and soon after started getting sponsors.

Since then, he’s quickly become the athlete to watch. Just two weeks ago, he won the gold medal in the X games with this run:

Now Goepper is favored in the Olympics and as Americans prepare to watch, Goepper has taken on the role of explaining the sport to the nation.

“Because he has grandparents that have been trying for years to understand what it is that he does, he’s become quite good at breaking it down in a way that would can better understand what slopestyle is all about,” Nick’s mother Linda Goepper says.

Just before he left for Sochi, Goepper appeared on several national media outlets, including David Letterman, to do just that.

Here’s how he explains slopestyle skiing:

But in an interview with Ball State University, Goepper said some in his sport aren’t thrilled about being in the Olympics even though it means the sport and its athletes are gaining international attention.

“The foundation of our sport was we were kind of rebels,” he said. “We wanted to break away from other skiing and the regimented rules and restrictions, but there has been a lot of controversy within the industry because now that it’s in the Olympics, there has been this stereotype that everyone who’s going to the Olympics is turning into robots.”

Even if there are some people who question whether Goepper and other slopestyle athletes should compete in the Olympics, Goepper’s family says they’re behind him 100 percent.

Nick’s mother, father and three siblings are making the trip to Sochi, and his dad says the trip will be well worth it no matter what the outcome.

“We take this one day at a time because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and we’re just going to enjoy it while we can,” Chris Goepper says.

The Olympic ski slopestyle competition is being held Thursday where Goepper will compete against 32 other athletes from 15 different countries.

 BSU at the Games contributed to this report. BSU at the Games is a freelance news agency operated by 22 student journalists reporting from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games through an immersive-learning program at Ball State University. You can follow their coverage on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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