Resigned to the probability, if not the fact, that he had just skied his last Olympic run, mogulist Brad Wilson smiled into the media cameras before him at the bottom of the course near Beijing, China.
The 10-plus years of hard work for a medal was likely over and the medal was never hung around his neck. He did not feel the conquest of standing on a Winter Olympics.
It certainly was not for lack of trying, nor for a lack of love for the endeavor.
“Love you, freestyle,” Wilson said to the fans watching on their TVs. “Love you, American.
“Love you, Butte.”
The Butte native has announced he will retire after the current moguls skiing season, which includes the resumption of the World Cup schedule lasting into March. The moguls qualifier and finals were televised early Saturday morning live on the USA Network, which is providing 24-hour Winter Olympics coverage.
The 29-year-old Wilson is a 2011 graduate of Butte Central Catholic High School and was able to split his high school sports time between the national and international freestyle moguls tours from which he used Park City, Utah, as an anchor, and the Butte Central tennis program the springs he was able to return to town.
Born and raised in The Mining City to and by parents Bryon and Jeanette, Wilson and his older brother Bryon grew up on the 2000 block of Wall Street playing youth sports in Butte, competing as stars in gymnastics and self-launching their freestyle skiing careers on a homemade course, complete with ramp, on the East Ridge.
Brad Wilson recounted in the recently released documentary “Mavericks,” a film in tribute to Montana freestyle skiers, how they practiced on the East Ridge at night, using headlights from semis on Homestake Pass to guide them through their bumps and turns.
Wilson set a record by being the only man from the United States to be selected for three Olympics in moguls. He placed 20th at Sochi, Russia, in 2014, and 18th at PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018.
Unable to advance out of the qualifying rounds this year in trials held Thursday and Saturday competing in a talent-saturated field, he wound up 25th.
“Time to be a cheerleader,” he tweeted moments after completing his last run, Saturday, “Tune in to cheer ur hearts out for Nick Page, Cole McDonald and Dylan Walczyk. They all could be on that podium. They’re shredding!”
Page, McDonald and Walczyk are Wilson’s three Team USA teammates in the event. Page wound up finishing the highest, in sixth place. Sweden’s Walter Wallberg upset defending Gold Medalist and reigning World Cup champion Mikael Kingsbury of Canada for this Olympics’ Gold. Kingsbury was awarded the Silver Medal. Ikuma Horishima of Japan took the Bronze.
McDonald placed 14th and Walczyk 16th.
The younger Bryon Wilson captured the Bronze Medal at the 2010 Winter Games at Vancouver and now serves as moguls coach for Team USA. He was with his younger brother at the site and Brad Wilson talked last week in an interview about the closeness of the team members. Friends with the 28-year-old Walczyk, Brad Wilson talked about also being thrilled to be a teammate of the teen-agers Page, 19, and McDonald, 18, who he and his brother have helped Team USA coach and develop.
Bryon Wilson is a 2006 Butte High graduate and played American Legion baseball as a Butte teenager.
Both brothers are artists – Bryon owning fame as a fish carver and Brad realizing his potential as a painter.
The Winter Olympics qualifying saw 30 skiers compete in Thursday’s first trials with the top 10 automatically advancing to the first finals. The other 20 competed Saturday morning in a second qualifier with the top 10 scores among them from either day filling out the 20-man finals field.
Brad Wilson veered off course on Thursday, and so did not have a score entering Saturday’s second qualifier. So, he has just one score to offer up toward finals field placement and the 72.94 he posted was about two points short.
Those in the 20-man finals saw the field cut to 12 for the second finals before sliced in half to six men deciding the medalists and next three places.
— Compiled and written by Bruce Sayler for buttesports.com