The new dad opens up about how he’d spend a perfect day with his daughter, and the quirky side of being a Nordic combined athlete.
What is your earliest memory of trying out Nordic combined? Did you try jumping or skiing first?
I was probably 4, and I remember heading out for the learn to jump day at Howelson Hill. I remembering being very nervous to go off the jump but also very excited to do it. Then the coach who was working that day gave me a few pointers and sent me on my way. As soon as I was in the air I was hooked. I immediately wanted to go up to the next-biggest jump and deep down I knew I wouldn’t stop until I reached the biggest jump.
What is the first Olympics you remember watching?
I remember watching the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, and seeing the team who trained at Howelson Hill, and that was the first realization for me that it was possible to reach the Olympics.
Do you do anything for training that’s out of the ordinary or experimental?
Yes, in the couple years we have been experimenting with blood flow modification training. Essentially wearing a blood pressure cuff while training to make sessions harder and more efficient. Our team has been working with B-Strong Bands and Kaatsu for about three years now.
What’s a weird quirk about Nordic combined that most people don’t realize?
We don’t pick the color of our jump suits for looks. We typically pick colors based on the quality of the material and how fast or slow the material is. The material has a major effect on our jumping so we spend a ton of time picking a material based on the way it flies or based on its permeability. Unfortunately, sometimes the best colors are the ugliest combinations.
What do you consider your breakthrough moment, where you knew you could compete at an elite level and one day reach the Olympics?
Yes, in 2002. I had trained really hard that summer, specifically in jumping and that winter I came out and even surprised myself. I jumped incredibly well and received an opportunity to fore jump the Olympics in Salt Lake City. I remember that year was the first year that I knew I could make it in the higher level of competitions.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Big Trees Grow Slowly,” JT Kearny. My coach DJ gave me this quote a few years back and it’s been applicable to many aspects of my life.
Did anyone ever tell you that you wouldn’t succeed? How did you overcome that?
My coach DJ once challenged me when I showed up with the improper attire for training. I said I kind of didn’t think it would matter, and he said “Do you kind of want to be good, or do you want to be good?”
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
It’s not just an every four year commitment. In our sport, training for the Olympics takes several decades to reach the needed fitness and skill level to attain a medal.
What’s your favorite perk of being an elite Olympic athlete?
Getting to train and spend time outdoors instead of in the office.
Tell us about your family.
I am married to an amazing woman, Nikki, who is also the mother of our daughter Ellery. Ellery was born on Aug. 29, 2016, and we are enjoying every minute of parenthood. Being a parent certainly makes training and competing a bit more challenging. Obviously, our sport requires a tremendous amount of travel and time commitments and that means time away from Ellery. So I do the best I can to balance both my training and my family life. I have goals on both sides of the equation. I want to be active in my parenting and be the best father I can be. My family needs take priority over my skiing but I have to be sure not to sacrifice too much on training or competition.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have springer spaniel/ Australian shepherd mix named Sochi. We got her the year before the Sochi Games and she is basically our second child.
What would you be doing if you were not an athlete?
I would probably still be skiing as much as possible! At the moment I would be enjoying family life, finishing school and probably working a job that would allow me to still be outside enjoying life as much as possible.
Can you describe your perfect day off?
Going on an adventure with my wife and daughter. Maybe a walk around the neighborhood, camping, or swimming with Ellery. It really doesn’t matter what we do as long as we are all together.
Do you play any other sports?
Mostly biking, mountain and road. I used to white water kayak a lot.
Are there any Summer Olympic sports you’d like to try out?
How do you unwind after a competition?
Recovery! After every competition it’s important to relax, recover and get ready for the next competition.
What are some of your favorite hobbies?
Gardening home improvement projects. My wife and I just bought our first house in 2016 and I love to work on it. Currently, I am tearing out an old playground and slide to put in a fenced garden. Next will be replacing the shingles on the roof!
What kind of music do you listen to while you train?
The Devil Makes Three, Tool, Lil Wayne, The Doors, Led Zeppelin
What are your favorite movies?
Quentin Tarantino movies are almost always great. Also Forrest Gump is a classic!
What do you like to watch on TV?
Currently it’s “This is Us,” Saturday Night Live, The Walking Dead, Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
What physical routine makes you feel your best, outside of training?
Being happy! Doing whatever it is in the moment that makes you smile. Generally eating healthy and socializing with friends.
What are the five must-have items in your gym bag?
Weight shoes, shorts, shirt, Halo Neuroscience headset and B-Strong bands. Of course a Honey Stinger Recovery bar as well.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Absolutely. A group sing along to “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond is always a good time!