Four years ago, Joss Christensen wasn’t supposed to be an Olympian.
After mediocre finishes in the first two Olympic qualifiers, the freestyle skier from Park City, Utah, just barely made the team at the final Sochi selection event. With an Olympic gold medal in slopestyle skiing in his trophy case, the 25-year-old knows there’s nothing wrong with being overlooked.
“I was doing it for myself,” Christensen told amNewYork on Wednesday in Times Square at an event promoting 100 days until the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “The ski team really didn’t expect me to make the team. My sponsors wanted me to and supported me, but they didn’t set expectations of me making the Olympic team. I didn’t feel like I was skiing for anyone else but myself, and I feel like that was why I was able to ski so well.”
Christensen dedicated his shocking victory to his late father, who died of congestive heart failure six months before the 2014 Games.
“My family had a lot of drama and a lot of hard times leading up to the Olympics,” he said. “There was a lot of separation between my mom, my brother and I. We were all dealing with it in our own ways, and I feel like the Olympics brought our whole family together, and we were able to celebrate something.”
Now an Olympic champion, Christensen might be overlooked again. He’s recovering from a torn ACL suffered in May and will miss the Dew Tour, the first Olympic qualifier of the 2017-18 season. But for the slopestyle wiz, the road to recovery doesn’t end with defending Olympic gold.
“If you think about ‘defending,’ I’m giving it something I can lose,” he said. “I’ve already earned that title, and I can’t lose it. So, I can’t think about it as defending. I just want to go and do it twice.”