May 26, 2022

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Early riser Hall ‘gambles’ to bag slopestyle gold at Beijing Games

Alex Hall admitted that he was “not a morning person” but he still managed to rise and shine to claim freeski slopestyle gold at the Beijing Olympics on Wednesday.

The American’s first-run score of 90.01 was enough to give him the title ahead of countryman Nick Goepper but he said “having fun” was more important than winning medals, on a cold, early morning at Genting Snow Park.

“I’m glad I did something that made it fun for me, especially when it’s freezing like this and you’ve got to get up at 6:00am and I’m not a morning person,” said the 23-year-old.

“You’ve got to find everything you can to make it as fun as possible. That’s exactly why I came out and did the tricks I did, just so I’d fully enjoy it.”

Hall wowed the judges with his creative moves, including a flashy “butter” trick that involves using the flex of the skis to launch into a jump — “definitely a gamble”, he said.

He called his first run “the best” he had ever performed but he was less concerned about scoring points than enjoying himself.

“That’s why I think this win is the most special win of my career because I just did exactly what I wanted to do — I didn’t do anything for the judges and I did what I thought would be the most fun on the course,” he said.

“I’m glad it put me in first but if it had put me in 12th I would have been OK with it as long as I’m skiing my best and loving it.”

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Goepper claimed silver on 86.48, while Sweden’s Jesper Tjader took bronze on 85.35.

Goepper jumped into second with an impressive second run and said he felt he “deserved” his medal.

“I always, even at this point in my career, am contemplating if I am doing the right thing to succeed,” said the 27-year-old.

“Even being at the top of my game, I’m still second-guessing myself a little bit. So for it to pay off in this way, based on how I’ve been taking care of myself the last year, is validating.”

Goepper won bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games and silver four years later in Pyeongchang, and he admitted he struggled to cope after his initial Olympic success.

He said that he drank to excess and even thought about taking his own life.

The American said Wednesday that he was “doing really good” and was “impressed” that more athletes are opening up about their mental health.

“I’ve done a lot of work off the slope on myself, even more work there than I’ve done on the slope,” he said.

“I think that’s the most important, to get on a good foundation as a person before you can go and kick ass and do sports.”

Tjader took bronze ahead of fifth-place Birk Ruud of Norway, who won freeski Big Air gold last week and said he wanted to become “the Usain Bolt of freestyle skiing”.

“I’m happy because I really enjoyed those three last runs,” said Ruud.

“It’s four years until the next Olympics, so you might as well have fun.”

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