Greg Bretz says confidence level 'through the roof' in Olympic return
From Vancouver to Sochi, Greg Bretz is now a two-time Olympian and believes the podium is in his future for this go at the Games.
“My confidence level, this year especially, is through the roof,” says Bretz.
As it should be considering he was the first rider to beat Shaun White in the halfpipe in the past four years. Following Bretz’s victory over White at the first U.S. selection event of the season, all eyes were on Bretz to keep the momentum going.
Bretz has every intention of doing just that; afterall, in his words he is in the best shape of his life and he is an “all around better snowboarder than he was in 2010.”
Without question, Bretz was seen as the underdog in 2010, which was fair then considering his first and only major career win at the time came from a 2008 World Cup event in Stoneham. This year, however, Bretz is one of two returning men’s snowboard halfpipe Olympians, making him a veteran on the team. Combine that with his recent hot streak and aggressive attitude, Bretz will surely be one to watch in Sochi.
Catch up with Bretz below and learn how he has changed over recent years and get a feel for his new newfound confidence.
Bretz will make his second Olympic appearance in Sochi. (Photo: USSA)
NBCOlympics.com: Going into the U.S. selection events for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, what did you think your chances of making the team were?
Greg Bretz: I was at the beginning of my game. I didn’t really think I had too much of a shot but I was going out there to have a good time. I worked hard and it ended up coming down to the last two contests. I rode well, did everything I could possibly do and ended up locking in a spot on the team.
Would you call yourself the underdog in 2010?
I was definitely the underdog. Nobody was expecting anything out of me that year.
Did that add any pressure going into the Games?
Making the Olympic team means that you are one of the best four American snowboard halfpipe riders. So, that in itself puts a lot of pressure on you. You are going out there and representing the best country in the world and of course you want to do well.
What was the experience like at the age of 19?
It was crazy and everything was so overwhelming. I’d never seen anything like that before. I definitely watched the Olympics when I was younger but I didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. It was just a crazy ride.
Bretz finished 12th in his Olympic debut in 2010. (Photo: USA Today Sports)
What was the atmosphere at the top of the pipe different than any other halfpipe competition you have been in?
It was definitely different. It was a really, really long day. I had to go through all three rounds; it was exhausting. It was also pretty crazy because of the stands there. I had never seen such stadium seating at the bottom of the halfpipe. It was a good experience. There was definitely a lot of pressure on me, but I was just up there to snowboard and have a good time.
After the 2010 Games, you moved to L.A., changed your diet and started working out. Can you explain why you made some changes and how it‘s been working out?
Yeah, for sure. I don’t live in LA anymore; I’m back in Mammoth. Last February at US Open I fractured vertebrae in my back. It made me realize how out of shape I was. I was very fortunate to have Red Bull backing me at that time. They got me a spot in Marina Del Ray for a couple months. I worked with a trainer at their facility just rehabbing and getting stronger. After I moved back I continued my routine and ended up dropping 25 pounds of fat and putting on ten or fifteen pounds of muscle. Now I’m in the best shape of my life.
People have spoken of a change in mindset for you around the halfpipe. Has anything clicked over recent years that made you “want” to win?
I always want to win. Everyone always wants to win. My confidence level, this year especially, is through the roof. Beating Shaun [White] at [Dew Tour] definitely lit a fire under my butt and I’m just going with it.
Bretz stood atop the podium in Breckenridge, the first to beat White in four years. (Photo: Alli Sports)
What was going through your mind after that win? Was it, “I beat Shaun” or “I won Dew Tour?”
It was a little bit of both. It had been a long time since someone beat Shaun, but I put in a lot of work this summer and wasn’t going to let it go that easy.
Did it feel more important to make Team USA this year?
It definitely was, because I’ve been in the running for Olympic podium contention since the last Games. My bag of tricks is greater. My riding has gotten better. I’m an all around better snowboarder than I was in 2010. It was definitely more important.
In a contrast from 2010, would you say this year you are feeling more like the “top dog” rather than the “underdog”?
Definitely. Definitely. Definitely.
Embedded video_content_type: Greg Bretz wants to focus on having fun in Sochi
What are your thoughts on Shaun White? He’s been the face of Team USA in recent years.
Shaun’s an amazing snowboarder. He’s extremely consistent. I don’t know, he’s earned it. He goes out there, he rides his fullest and he has a good time.
What are the most technical tricks that you’ve been working on?
My first hardest trick is the frontside double cork 1260. My next one is a double McTwist that I haven’t put into a run yet, but hopefully in Sochi I can unveil it.
I have to ask about the double cork 1440. What are your thoughts on it? Is this the way you want to see snowboarding go?
It’s extremely, extremely technical. Yeah, it’s one of the hardest tricks to do, but it’s not the way I would like to see snowboarding go for halfpipe riding. I think that’s why Danny [Davis] gets rewarded so well, because he’s got style. Once you take style out of snowboarding it’s just spin to win.
Thinking back to last year [at the halfpipe test event in Sochi], was the pipe good enough to add the double McTwist to your run?
I think I could have pulled it off last year. We are going out to Russia to go compete and to win a gold. Anything goes at that point.
Like Bretz himself in the halfpipe, his confidence is flying high this year. (Photo: Alli Sports)
Since you have Vancouver under the belt, are there any advantages to being an Olympian already?
Yeah, I think knowing there will be so much media around, knowing that crowds are going to be insane and knowing how much security will be around. I think that is going to play a huge role in my mental game.
Definitely. I think I’m going to be able to put those things aside and focus on my snowboarding.
Who would you say is your biggest competition? It sounds like it may be you.
I would say my biggest competition is definitely myself. As long as I can stay focused on the prize and not beat myself up while being out there, I think myself is my biggest competition.
What would you say was your biggest highlight this season on your Road to Sochi?
Beating Shaun was my biggest accomplishment this season… so far.