Name: David Wise
Country: United States
2016/17 AFP halfpipe ranking: 13th
- 2014 Olympic halfpipe gold medalist
- 4-time X Games halfpipe medalist (3 gold, 1 silver)
- 2-time AFP halfpipe champion (2013, 2015)
At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, where ski halfpipe made its Olympic debut, competitors had to deal with snowy conditions that slowed down the halfpipe. As a result, Wise was forced to scale back the run he had planned, but he still managed to put down a solid run that included double cork 1260s in both directions. That enabled him to capture the first-ever gold medal in men’s ski halfpipe.
Despite a slump last season, Wise is still among the favorites to take home gold at PyeongChang 2018. There is a deep field of contenders in ski halfpipe though, including many of his U.S. teammates. In fact, the depth of the U.S. team means that he will need to work hard in the months leading up to the Games in order to secure a spot on the Olympic team.
Potential Olympic records
So far, only one Olympic athlete (Alex Bilodeau, moguls) has won multiple gold medals in freestyle skiing. With a win in PyeongChang, Wise would match that mark.
Wise is able to pair big amplitude with big tricks, giving him an advantageous skillset that has helped him reach the top step of the podium on numerous occasions. He’s adept at spinning double corks in a variety of directions, including switch takeoffs, and has previously landed the extremely difficult double cork 1440.
When he was a kid, Wise started off in a ski racing program, but he was drawn to what he was witnessing in the terrain parks. Sometimes he would skip practice and hit rails instead, breaking his Alpine skis in the process. He eventually joined a freestyle team and competed in moguls before moving into freeskiing. He won his first U.S. national title in halfpipe at age 15 and turned pro at age 18.
At the 2013 X Games, Wise became the first skier to land back-to-back double cork 1260s — one spun in his natural direction, the other spun in his unnatural direction — in a halfpipe competition. That combination enabled him to win his second straight X Games gold medal.
“One of my biggest investments that I made in my career was learning how to spin to the right,” Wise says. “Ironically, when I got into the sport for, like, the first five years I was freeskiing, nobody spun two directions. You just have your natural direction of spinning, which for me was left, and you didn’t even consider spinning to the right. “
But as the sport moved in a direction where it became important to showcase a variety of spins to the judges, Wise put in the work to learn unnatural rotations. “Because I put that time investment in, I was able to be the first guy to do both double corks 12s to the left and to the right.”
Recent seasons have lacked many of the dominant showings that had come to be expected from Wise, as he has battled through multiple concussions and other injuries. “I felt like I was always only at 75 percent,” he told TeamUSA.org.
After not reaching the podium at all during the 2016/17 season, Wise is starting this Olympic season in a much healthier place. His first contest of the season, a U.S. Olympic qualifying event at the Copper Grand Prix, produced a victory.
Off the snow
Wise is a rarity among his peers — a freeskier who is also a family man. He married his wife Alexandra in 2011. They had a daughter, Nayeli, later that year and a son, Malachi, in 2014. “My kids are an important part of keeping me grounded as an athlete,” Wise says. “It is easy to get caught up in what you are doing and what is happening in the sport and lose perspective, but at the end of the day we professional athletes are grown-ups playing games for a living. It is more important to me to be the best husband and father that I can be, than to win any title or championship. It takes the pressure off and I can just go out and enjoy my craft.”
In a twist on the action sports world’s “10 percent rule,” Wise is donating 10% of his contest winnings to his older sisters’ charity, One Leg Up On Life, each time he finishes on the podium this year. Christy Wise, one of his sisters, is a pilot in the U.S. Air Force who underwent a leg amputation several years ago after a paddle boarding accident. That experience led Christy and her twin sister Jessica to found One Leg Up On Life as a way to provide prosthetics to children around the world.
When he’s not skiing or relaxing with his family, Wise finds ways to stay active. Two of the more unique hobbies he partakes in are bowhunting and slacklining. “It’s a really good way to build stability in your muscles,” he says of the latter.
“I think in my core, I am an action sports athlete. I like to go fast. I like to take risk. I like speed. I like air. I like being off the ground. But my lifestyle doesn’t really fit that as well. I have a wife and two kids. And when it comes to the after-skiing thing, I’m not super into the party scene. So that’s been kind of difficult for people to understand about me. Like, how do you live these two sort of countercultural lifestyles? And for me, it’s just who I am.” — David Wise on balancing freeskiing with family life