COPPER MOUNTAIN, COLORADO - DECEMBER 13: David Wise of the United States looks on after finishing second place in the Men's Freeskiing Halfpipe Final on December 13, 2019 in Copper Mountain, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe gold medalist David Wise broke his femur in 2019 and was hospitalized for 11 straight days in an Austrian hospital.
"I have a rod from my knee to my hip. And I have some wires holding it together and stuff. It’s pretty gruesome looking. I look like a bionic man," But he said, “strength-wise, I’m 100%, probably better than I ever have been."
Since then he took seventh and 10th at the 2019 and 2021 World Ski Championships, respectively, won the 2019 World Cup in Calgary and had four other top-four World Cup finishes.
Evidently he's in a comfortable state of mind, as he's hinted at a possible attempt at qualifying for the U.S. archery team ahead of the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
"I would probably try to make a run for the Games in Los Angeles because it would be really cool to be able to compete on home soil," he said. "People will probably tell me I can’t do it. But if you ever want to see me do something, the best thing to do is tell me I can’t.”
The Reno, Nevada, native also built a chicken coop and a pig pen when he found himself with some extra time last spring.
PARK CITY, UTAH - FEBRUARY 06: Nicholas Goepper of the United States in third place on the podium for the Men's Ski Slopestyle Final at the FIS Freestyle Ski World Championships on February 06, 2019 at Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Two-time Olympic medalist Nick Goepper won a record fourth X Games slopestyle skiing title in January. He had not reached the podium in the event since 2017, so this was a strong statement from the 26- year-old American that he remains a contender for gold in this event.
Goepper, who dealt with substance abuse, anxiety and depression between Sochi and Pyeongchang, had this to say after the win: “It’s validating, especially from all the hard work I’ve been putting in. After a few years and a little self-doubt started to creep in, I feel better, my body feels great, my mind is sharp, and I’m stoked to just keep it going and represent for the over-25 crowd.”
ASPEN, COLORADO - MARCH 20: Colby Stevenson of the United States looks on from the podium after finishing first place in the men's freeski slopestyle final during Day 3 of the Land Rover U.S. Grand Prix World Cup at Buttermilk Ski Resort on March 20, 2021 in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Park City, Utah, native Colby Stevenson should be a top contender in slopestyle in his Olympic debut. But five years ago, the 24-year-old wasn’t sure if he’d be able to ski in any capacity.
In May 2016, he suffered a skull fracture, traumatic brain injury, broken neck, eye socket and ribs and was placed in a medically-induced coma for three days after falling asleep at the wheel while driving a friend’s truck. Five months later, he was back on skis and training with the U.S. team, and three months after that, he won his first World Cup event.
“[I] just have this different outlook on life that allows me to succeed in skiing because I’m doing it for the love of the sport,” Stevenson said. “I’m grateful for every minute of it…That just shaped my life in such a positive way.” He marks May 8 – the day of the accident – as a “celebrate life” day, usually spending time outside with family and friends – and if weather permits, skiing.
PARK CITY, UTAH - FEBRUARY 05: Mikael Kingsbury of Canada reacts after a run during the Men's Dual Moguls during the 2021 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort on February 05, 2021 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Canadian Mikael Kingsbury won his third career men’s moguls world title in March and followed that with his third career men’s dual moguls world title the next day.
The reigning Olympic and world moguls champion and winner of a record 65 moguls World Cup events is arguably the most dominant athlete in any winter sport.
He missed the beginning of this season due to fractured vertebrae, causing his streak of nine straight World Cup overall titles to come to an end, but he won both events he competed in upon his return. The 29-year-old won silver at the Sochi Games and since PyeongChang has racked up four world titles.
PARK CITY, UTAH - FEBRUARY 06: Winter Vinecki of the United States after her jump in the Woman's Aerials Finals during the 2021 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort on February 06, 2021 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Winter Vinecki made the World Cup podium for the first time in January, winning an event in Moscow with a new trick.
The 22-year-old from Gaylord, Michigan, has a background in distance running. Her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer when she was nine and passed away 10 months later. She and her mother started “Team Winter” to raise money for prostate cancer research and together, they completed marathons on all seven continents before Winter turned 15 as part of their efforts to raise awareness about the disease.
She was recruited to the sport by three-time Olympic aerialist Emily Cook, who she met at a Women’s Sports Foundation event in 2011.
Vinecki missed a spot on the 2018 Olympic team after fracturing the right side of her face in a training accident, but in 2022, could become the first known winter Olympian named Winter. Her parents named their December-born daughter for their favorite season in northern Michigan.
ASPEN, COLORADO - MARCH 13: Eileen Ailing Gu of China reacts to finishing first place in the women's freeski slopestyle final during Day 4 of the Aspen 2021 FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Championship at Buttermilk Ski Resort on March 13 2021 in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Eighteen-year-old Eileen Gu of China was the biggest international story at this year's X Games. She won the halfpipe and slopestyle events and reached the podium in big air. It is rare for an athlete to compete in all three events. However, Kelly Sildaru of Estonia, who competes in all three and won both slopestyle and halfpipe last year, did not compete in Aspen due to injury.
Gu grew up in San Francisco but decided to switch nationalities to represent China in 2019 – her mother is from Beijing and Eileen is fluent in Mandarin.
"I wanted to introduce snow sports and freeskiing in particular to Chinese people who had never heard of it before and particularly to youth and girls… In the long run, I really wanted to be able to make change with that, and to be able to have a lasting impact. So, I think that China was definitely the way to go with that and just gave me so much more of an audience to be able to speak to and make change with.”
Gu could be one of the biggest stars for her home country in Beijing, where she should contend for multiple gold medals.
NBC Olympics Research contributed to this report