Colby Stevenson on big air silver: "Feels like something out of a movie scene"

The American freeskier claimed his first podium in big air at Beijing 2022: "I'm just on a cloud right now!"

By Hayes Creech
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Every year on 8 May is “celebrate life” day to Colby Stevenson.

That's because he was lucky to escape with his life after a car wreck he suffered on 8 May 2016. And yet, he will be leaving Beijing 2022 with a silver medal around his neck.

Stevenson had a stunning performance in the inaugural men's freeski big air competition, finishing just behind Norway's 21-year-old Birk Ruud who won gold. Sweden’s 30-year-old veteran Henrik Harlaut finished with the bronze

Olympics.com caught up with the man from Park City, Utah to contextualise his phenomenal achievement.

Silver medalist Colby Stevenson of Team United States celebrates during the Men's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air Final flower ceremony
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

"I was heartbroken in 2018 when I tore my shoulder out and didn't get to come to the Olympics," he said. "I got to watch all my buddies throw down. It was an interesting time in my life. But to come out here and make the Olympic team was an honour in itself.

"Big Air's not typically an event I do well in. I've never been on the podium in Big Air, so my expectations weren't super high for landing on the podium, but I knew I was throwing down some new tricks and I had a good chance at doing well, so I just focused on that.

"I learned a new trick: nose butter 16 with Japan grab. I believe I'm the first one to do it with a Japan grab, so I'm super hyped to do that. Honestly this feels like something straight out of a movie scene. I'm just on a cloud right now! I don't know really how else to explain it. It's my first big air podium finish, and it's here at the Olympics. What an amazing thing."

'If I can survive that, I can survive any kind of crash'

Doctors gave Colby Stevenson small odds of returning to competitive freestyle skiing after the wreck in rural Idaho left him near dead in 2016.

Stevenson fractured his skull, ribs, an eye socket, jaw and neck in the accident. He had to have two major surgeries, including one to put a titanium plate in his skull.

"I really don't focus on that. It's something of the past, but to come back from that and be able to ski at a high level again. I feel super lucky to be able to do that.

"If I can survive that, I can survive any kind of crash I'm going to take out here; that's kind of how I think about it. I'm just going to give it my all and keep pushing. This is what I love to do and nothing's going to stop me from doing it."

'Healthy to get out of your comfort zone'

"The biggest thing my sport's taught me about life is that it's healthy to get out of your comfort zone. I've learned that a lot, especially this year. I've been learning new tricks at every event. In the past couple of years it's been a more mellow progression of my tricks, but finally I had some good jumps and was just throwing it all down.

"It's so important to get out of your comfort zone in life. It's just going to keep things exciting and keep you happy. Get out there and do what you love and start learning something new and try as many things as you can."

Perhaps 9 February will also be another day on the calendar for Stevenson to "celebrate life".

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