Olympic champion Christensen returns to where it began

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) Joss Christensen won the slopestyle at the U.S Freeskiing Grand Prix in January 2014 and his life has never been the same since. That victory allowed him to grab the final spot on the Olympic team and sent him to Sochi. The Park City native went on win the gold in one of the biggest surprises of the games.

Christensen won the same event in his hometown Friday in another fantastic fashion. He fell during his first two runs and was in last place before ripping off the run of the day to score 92.00 points and earn the title. That was the final run of the event.

Christensen again showed anything can happen despite long odds.

”I’ve been pretty much saying you never know when you’re going to surprise yourself,” Christensen said. ”I’ve surprised myself so much in the past year and just never give up when things are going bad. Just keep pushing for it.”

Mcrae Williams has watched Christensen bloom over the years. The two have been friends and skiing together since they were eight. Williams was poised to win Friday before his buddy’s knocked him down to second place. He’s proud of what Christensen has been able to accomplish, but knows it wasn’t always this way.

”Honestly, in the past I think he’s been one to really crack under the pressure,” Mcrae said. ”He had a rough year before the Olympics and I’m really stoked for him to be having the success that he’s having. Winning the Olympics is the best thing you can do. In your career, that sets the bar… You’re not under as much pressure whereas for some of us other guys we’re still trying to make that mark.

”He’s got the advantage being the best and knowing he’s the best.”

Christensen said he wants to be a role model for kids because he remembers being that age and looking up to the pros – dreaming that would be him one day. His story, however, is motivating his peers also.

”I think it puts the pressure on, coming both from the same town and growing up together,” said Williams, who won an X Games gold medal in 2013. ”It’s definitely hard. We love each other and we love seeing each other succeed. But at the same time it’s hard when you don’t do well and you see your buddy succeed.

”Just trying to be happy for him and stoked to be on the podium with him once and for all.”

The two have traveled the world together and now Christensen is the headliner at many events. The phrase ”Olympic gold medalist” will forever be included in his introductions. Christensen said he’s trying to take this year a little easier after 2014 turned into a whirlwind after Sochi.

”My life changed a thousand times since before the Olympics,” Christensen said. ”I never even imagined myself going to the Olympics. After everything there has just been a dream come true. Everything’s just been euphoria. Traveling all over the world, meeting people I never thought I’d meet. Going places I never thought I’d be.”

After all the globe-trotting, Christensen found himself back where it all started. Skiing in his hometown with long-time friends on the course that sent him to the Olympics. The event didn’t hold the same cache as it does during an Olympic qualifying year, but that doesn’t mean nothing was on the line.

”I was really nervous going into (that) third one,” Christensen said. ”I really wanted to land a run. I was sitting in 10th place, I just wanted to do well. Being up there alone, thinking to myself, I wanted to do the best that I could. I wanted to try to prove myself. I just went for it.

”Taking a win here just means so much to me. It feels bigger to me than it might to the other athletes. Just being in my hometown and it’s so cool having an event here.”