as told to Florence Kane, Vogue
In honor of the upcoming summer games, we caught up with eight former U.S. Olympic champions. In this series, they share their fondest memories of everything it took to win the gold.
I was fifteen when I was in my first Olympic trials, for the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City. I needed to come in first for a place on the U.S. team, and I was number one with just one more guy to go after me. J.J. Thomas beat me by three-tenths of a point. I wasn't totally devastated, but really disappointed. It was like I'd gotten permission to join the field trip but couldn't go. I had to have that setback, though, in order to go forward and become who I am. And in 2006, I made it to Torino.
On my first qualifying run in the half pipe-you get two-I fell. I didn't think it was that bad, but then I saw the look on my brother Jesse's face. I was almost disqualified. I thought, Oh, God. But I did better on my second run and made it to the finals.