American skier Nick Goepper has claimed a silver medal at this year’s winter Olympics after a breathtaking final run in the men’s ski slopestyle.
Goepper managed to win the bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games, and was absolutely delighted to upgrade that to a silver in South Korea. “I was thinking, this is it, this is my final chance,” he said, according to the LA Times. “I’m at my second Olympics. I want a medal.”
— Nick Goepper (@NickGoepper) February 18, 2018
“I really had to dig deep. I was visualizing myself landing on the last jump, arms open just screaming, and it all came to fruition.”
But it hasn’t always been easy for Goepper.
After earning a bronze and being included in an elite trio of American medalists at the 2014 Sochi games, he embarked on a whirlwind media tour, packed with events and scheduled signings. “At one point I counted how many appearances he did, and he had done 60 events,” his mother Linda said in an X Games video. “He was getting overwhelmed,” added his father, Chris.
“It was just wearing me out,” Nick explained, who felt himself sinking into an ever-deeper pit of depression – something which some sports psychologists call the “Olympic hangover.”
“That summer of 2014, I really experienced emotional distress and started to slide. I would go to bed at night and would want the night to be really long,” he explained.
To try and numb the emotional pain, Nick began to drink. “There came a point when I was drinking every day,” he said. “I was constantly thinking about ways to end my own life.”
In his own state of despair, one night Nick he called his mother and said, “Mom, I’m thinking about going to get a bottle of vodka and go sit in my car in Lambs Canyon and drink the whole thing.” Lambs Canyon was the location where police discovered the body of fellow Olympic skier and silver medalist Jeret Peterson. He had committed suicide.
“I knew that Nick was in trouble,” Linda said.
Goepper’s parents immediately flew out to be with their son.
“We almost lost Nick. He almost killed himself,” Chris said. “It doesn’t get any lower than that.”
When Nick didn’t show for a sponsorship event, his parents feared the worst. “I was flirting with that idea,” Nick said of his thoughts to end his life. “It was like a messed up way of saying ‘help me.'”
With the help of his family and following a stint being treated at a recovery center in Texas, Nick did get better.
Now an Olympic silver medalist, Goepper explained in an interview with BeliefNet that he relies on God to see him through the highs and lows of competition life.
“He helps me for sure every day and at every contest, Nick explained.
I like to quote the verse, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” I kind of envision me skiing and God is kind of like an eagle right next to me screeching in my ear that everything is going to be all good. I just try my best and that’s all I can ask for.”
Now a silver medalist at the Winter Olympics, Nick is acutely aware of the lows he has experienced in his life, and is grateful that things have turned around for him.
“I’m super proud just to be where I am today,” he said after taking the silver, as reported by the LA Times.
“I’m just really glad that I got the help that I needed and to be here living, experiencing all this, with a different outlook and perspective and more maturity.”
Nick has found it therapeutic to talk about his own experience, as well as raising awareness for issues surrounding mental health.
“It also really helps with the healing process, talking about that stuff, making it known,” Goepper said. But he is determined not to fall into any sort of post-Olympic dependency issues as he strives forward to Beijing 2022. “I’d like to keep skiing, I’d like to keep competing a little bit more these next few weeks, do the big media obligations and the stuff that’s really important and just keep working,” he said.