BEIJING (Reuters) – Norwegian freestyle skier Birk Ruud dreamt of winning Olympic gold in Big Air when he was 13 before the discipline was even included at the Games.
Eight years later, he has become the first Olympic champion nL8N2UK0G5 in freeski Big Air after a dominant performance at Beijing’s Shougang venue on Wednesday.
Ruud, who lost his father to cancer and suffered injuries in the past year, performed an impressive switch triple cork 1980 and locked in the gold even before his last run.
The 21-year-old showed the world a gold-coloured bracelet from his father, who used to accompany him at competitions.
“I just wanted to say thank you to him and he’s with me and my family,” Ruud told reporters.
“I think he would be happy, and the thing is that he never cared about results. He cared about me being happy. I think if he saw me now being happy and achieving my goals, he’ll be really happy.”
Ruud said the pain of losing his father had brought new perspectives, which helped him view a competition like Wednesday’s as more of an opportunity to grow than being all about winning.
“After my father got sick, I had to grow and look at the bigger picture in life. That also has helped me to not just put my whole life into this competition…” said Ruud
“Family to me is everything, That’s the story that has got me to where I am to be able to handle all the pressure.”
Ruud will compete in slopestyle next week, the discipline he won at the FIS Freeski World Cup Stubai in November.
When not on skis, the action man is busy doing other sports from skateboarding to cliff jumps.
He calls his lifestyle “BU$I”, and got a manicure with that painted on his nails in the Olympic Village.
“I want to stay busy, like what I did up there today,” he said.
(Reporting by Krystal Hu in Beijing; Editing by Ken Ferris)