Testimony of David Wise: Wing and a Prayer; Wins Halfpipe Skiing Olympic Gold for USA
For Olympic halfpipe skier David Wise, perspective is everything.
In the live-on-the-edge, let-it-all-hang-out culture of halfpipe skiing, Wise is enjoying tremendous success without being drawn into the worldly side of the sport. He says his faith is what helps him stay grounded in an environment that could turn many in a different direction.
"Faith plays a huge role because it enables me to be confident," says Wise, a 23-year-old husband and father. "I don't have to worry about what's happening or the outside influences as much because I feel like I can trust God, and He's going to see me through. I can look back on my path and realize that God had a pretty significant part in taking care of me. It takes the pressure off and I can enjoy it."
When you ski backwards and fly into and out of a two-story-deep snow ravine for a living, pressure relief is a valuable commodity.
"When you ski into a halfpipe, the first thing anybody says is 'Wow, this thing is huge,'" says Wise. "When you see it on television it doesn't quite give you the perspective, but when you stand in the middle and there's a 22-foot wall in front of you, and you realize people are flying up out of that, it's pretty intimidating."
Wise is on an impressive run of success, one that began during the 2011-12 season. He's collected five X Games medals (including three golds), was second in the AFP World Tour standings in 2012 and moved to the top of the chart the following year, and is the reigning world champion. For many, that kind of success combined with the lifestyle of the sport could lead a person off the straight and narrow path. Instead, Wise stands out because he doesn't succumb to cultural pressures.
"I definitely get singled out because I don't live the same lifestyle," he says. "I go to the parties, but I'm not there from bell to bell. I get a little heat for it from the industry, but my thing from the beginning was that I'm not going to let this sport change who I am. I'm going to do the best I can to be a big part of the sport, but who I am is who I am. I don't think my fellow athletes look down on me for the way I live my life. They can see that it works. They have to have respect for the way I do things because I'm the guy out there winning the thing - at least thus far in the season. It's a cool dynamic that we have going."
Instead of looking down on Wise for living his faith, in a number of ways his teammates look up to him. As husband to Alexandra and father to two-year-old Nayeli, some may consider him the father figure of the team.
"More like an older brother," he says with a chuckle. "I'm the one saying 'Guys, maybe you shouldn't do that. Maybe it's time to focus a little bit.' We definitely have some fun times. Being a teenager on the road, as I remember it, is a pretty fun and interesting experience. Sometimes I have to be like 'Guys, it's time to stop throwing bread at people. Tone it down a little bit.'"
Being at the top of any sport is a minefield of distractions, but Wise says that staying connected to God is an important part of each day.
"If I'm not spiritually in tune, then the rest of me is not going to be in tune either," he says. "I always try to wake up and spend some quiet time, try and center myself and really feel connected to God and what He's trying to say or speak into my life. As long as I have that, it becomes easier for me to just go out and enjoy what I do."
He prefers to let his faith speak through his actions.
"My faith is something that I've wanted to live out, not talk about," he says. "I would rather be known for my actions rather than my words. If you ask me about it, I'll tell you about it, but I'm just going to try to live the best life I can and be an example in that way."
His involvement in FCA is one avenue where he can share his faith with others, and he values the opportunity the organization provides for athletes to live their faith.
"FCA is a cool thing," he says. "I think that a lot of athletes feel isolated and feel that there aren't a lot of Christians in sports. It's cool to see an organization like FCA bringing us all together, and you realize that there are actually a lot of Christians in these sports. I do my part as best I can. I go and speak at schools around Reno that have FCA."
David will compete in the halfpipe on Tuesday, Feb. 18. You can read his official bio on the US Freeskiing web site. Also, check out the video of his gold medal winning run in the SuperPipe at the 2013 Winter X Games in Aspen below.
Author Craig Bohnert has served as the Breaking News Bureau Manager for the United States Olympic Committee at seven Olympic Games, including the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. A sports communications veteran, Bohnert has been a sports information director at both Morehead State and Murray State, served as communications director for the US Canoe and Kayak team, the public relations director for USA Gymnastics, and as the assistant executive director for communications for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. He and his wife own and operate the Inn on Crescent Lake, a 10-room, 22-acre bed and breakfast in Excelsior Springs, Mo.