American freeskiers Alex Hall and Nick Goepper took gold and silver in freeski slopestyle Wednesday morning, the best finish for Team USA since Goepper was one-third of a U.S. sweep of the event in Sochi in 2014.
With his win, Hall earned the first U.S. gold medal in freeskiing in Beijing, while Goepper earned his third slopestyle medal in as many Games, and his second silver. Goepper is the only three-time medalist in the event. Jesper Tjader of Norway took bronze.
"It definitely was the best slopestyle run I've ever done, mainly because it embodied everything I love about skiing and how I approach skiing, and I didn't fade away from that to try and maybe get bigger scores," Hall said after the event. "I just kept it true to myself, and I think that's the most important part about our sport is just doing it for the love and doing it how you want to do it and not changing that."
Hall won the contest on his first run, which included arguably the most difficult and unique skill of the day: a right side double 1080 pretzel out, a trick that sees Hall launch a double cork 1080 but stop the spin early and "pretzel" the rotation to pull it back to a 900 before landing. For his part, Goepper was the only rider to use the side takeoff on his second jump, a right double cork 1440.
"I knew I wanted to try the trick after making it to finals, but I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do it," Hall said. "I ended up doing one in practice, and then coming into that last jump on that first round, I was freaking out and trying to think, 'Stay calm and do everything you can to bring it back to 900,' and I'm glad it worked out."
Born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and raised in Switzerland, Hall resides and trains in Park City, Utah. He's known for his height -- 6-foot-4 -- his creative lines through slopestyle courses and for being a "skier's skier," the type of athlete who never compromises individuality, style and innovation in pursuit of wins.
Hall was 19 in Pyeongchang, where he has said he was more of a wide-eyed observer than a podium threat. He took 16th in slopestyle but has since become one of the best in the world at the event. His runs -- fluid and technical through the rail section and stylish and progressive in the jumps -- appease freeskiing purists and judges alike.
After taking their final runs, Goepper and Hall stood at the bottom of the course, where they watched the top two qualifiers take their final runs and waited to find out if their scores would hold.
"I definitely wasn't sure if it was going to hold, but I'm really stoked it did," Hall said. "It hasn't really hit me yet, but being up here with Jesper and Nick is really special."