Marianna Massey/Getty Images Nick Goepper
Olympian Nick Goepper has done all of this before – twice, in fact.
The freestyle skier and Red Bull athlete won a silver medal in the men’s slopestyle at the PyeongChang 2018 Games. Before the Olympics, in Sochi 2014, he won bronze. Of course, during an interview with PEOPLE, we wonder about his desire to make it a “box” with a gold medal at these Winter Games in Beijing.
“[I’m] just focusing on my sphere, just what’s right in front of me,” the 27-year-old insists. “When you start to think too much about the big picture, it can take you away from what’s important.”
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What is important? He says it’s what happens at a given, specific time and is under his control – simple things like his breakfast, his sleep regimen. Goepper explains, “Will Smith has a really good kind of analogy in that he builds a brick wall, and to be the best brick wall builder you just have to lay down every brick to be the best in the world you can be. , and I don’t think of everything, but every little brick. And that’s kind of how I approach it.
Goepper isn’t immune to the pressure that comes with his career, however, telling PEOPLE he’s as nervous as he was as a 12-year-old amateur (back when he sold sweets to pay for ski passes, a lesson in “entrepreneurship” from his ever-supportive parents).
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“I’m better at handling [nerves] now than I was when I was 12, because basically I make sure that on the day of the competition I have checked all the boxes possible to prepare for that moment, ”explains Goepper. “So my body feels good because I stretched a lot and warmed up. I’m hydrated, so I don’t have to worry about that. I listen to awesome music that I just downloaded. So I’m fired up.”
He continues: “I just make sure all my ducks are lined up, so in the back of my mind I know I’m absolutely ready for that moment. And that allows me to fight the nerves a little better than when I’m I was 15, and I didn’t have that much experience.”
The Olympian is also better equipped to deal with mental health issues, which came on strong for him after Sochi 2014. It was the descent after the Games that many athletes highlighted, which manifested in anxiety and depression for Goepper, as he previously opened up about.
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“Over the past 10 years, I think mental health and mental health advocacy, and training and treatment, has kind of come to the forefront of the media and corporations, which I think , has been really, really positive for people who are struggling, and need to take care of themselves or get help,” Goepper told PEOPLE. “And so, in addition to learning a lot and acquiring a lot of tools for my toolbox over the last 10 years, it was cool to see the US ski team, and Red Bull even offers these services, or kind of talk about it from a public forum because before it wasn’t as widespread.”
Throughout this time, he had the unwavering support of his parents, Linda and Chris Goepper. “I have to give credit to my parents for the tough love when I was a kid, because, I mean, there were a lot of things I was able to do through my upbringing,” he says.
And while they won’t be able to join him in Beijing, Goepper says his family and friends will host a 3 a.m. watch party when he competes on Feb. 15.
“I have such a great support system in my hometown in the Midwest that they’ll all be watching, I’m sure,” he says. “And I can’t wait to scream them on TV.”
To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Winter Olympics, starting February 3, and the Paralympic Games, starting March 4, on NBC.