By Bruce Sayler
A chance to rest created a pause to reflect, and maybe some salve for a deep disappointment.
Brad Wilson placed 18th Monday in the Winter Olympics freestyle skiing men’s moguls event at Phoenix Snow Park near PyeongChang, Korea. The Butte native took a most rigorous route there. His qualifying run last Thursday included an unplanned “bobble” off the bottom ramp, which cost him a top-10 qualifying spot and what would have been quick advancement to the finals.
So, he had a weekend to think about it and train for it. When Monday arrived, Wilson needed to finish in the top half of 20 world-class hopefuls to qualify in the second trials. He was fast, steady and acrobatic through the test and was fourth in the field, moving him onto the finals only an hour or so later. His toughness, resilience had served him well.
“I love being a part of the best athletes in the world competing for something that goes way beyond personal accomplishments in sport,” the 25-year-old Wilson said in a Twitter message to Butte Sports after the event.
In the 20-man finals, Wilson needed a top 12 finish for the next finals run. He sped into a wowser of a top-ramp aerial and then clocked the field’s fastest time, at that point, through the moguls slope between jumps. Past the midway spot on the bumps course, his right ski appeared to wander out of the track and caused some separation in skis, a violation in technique judges were to monitor. He struggled with the position and managed to pull his form back together in time to perform a humongous jump off the bottom ramp and then flash across the finish line in fastest time.
The technical miscue, however, kept him out of the 12 finalists lineup and he finished in 18th place, two spots better than he ended up in in his first Winter Games four years ago in Sochi, Russia. At Sochi, he fell at the bottom of the run and was slotted in 20th place in the final standings.
World Cup ace Mikael Kingsbury of Canada wound up winning this year’s Gold Medal on Monday while Matt Graham of Australia was second for the Silver Medal, and Daichi Hara of Japan third for the Bronze
“I am definitely torn that I wasn’t able to lay own my best run,” the 2011 Butte Central graduate said. “But I’m also stoked I was able to hang on and stay strong. After watching the video, I saw how big I went on the bottom air and it’s safe to say that’s the biggest I thing I’ve ever gone in an event. It’s pretty cool that it was at the Olympics. It has been an incredible experience and I look forward to progressing, moving forward.
“I need to give props to Mikael Kingsbury. People don’t understand the pressure he was dealing with. Most people would have broken. But, he didn’t. He fought and truly deserved that victory more than anyone else.”
Wilson is the fifth Winter Olympian from Butte following in the steps of speedskaters Judy Martz and Sylvia White in 1964 and Dave Silk in 1988 and fellow mogulist Bryon Wilson, his older brother, the Bronze Medalist in 2010. Both Wilsons have had to overcome serious injuries to continue their World Cup freestyle skiing career in moguls.
Brad Wilson indicated he plans to try again for the 2022 Winter Games, which are to be held in Beijing, China.
“I want to acknowledge our team,” he said. “We (Casey Andringa, Wilson, Troy Murphy and Emerson Smith as this year’s entries) all went for it. Our entire team left everything on the line, but it didn’t work out for us. Both on the men’s side and on the women’s side, we have an incredible team and the talent runs deep.
“I’m really excited to see where we end up in four years’ time. I think we will be a major force to be reckoned with and we’re all on fire about this next cycle. It’s going to be a very special four years.”
The two-time Olympian talked more about inspiration and help emanating from his hometown.
“I also want to thank my teachers at Butte Central for making it possible for me to get the training I needed during those crucial adolescent years, and for going beyond and above to make sure I got the education needed and letting me get the chances in the ski world.
“And, lastly I want to thank my family and the community of Butte. I am so beyond proud to be from Butte, Montana, and represent not only America, not only Montana, but the special place of Butte.
“It will always hold a special place in my heart.”