- Freestyle Skiing
Getting to know ski cross racer John Teller
If a piece of equipment breaks in Sochi, or if a bobsled needs a tune up, they can just call John Teller. The Mammoth Lakes, Calif., native is heading to Sochi to compete in ski cross and he financed his switch from Alpine skiing to ski cross by working at his family's auto body shop in his hometown. The 30-year-old sat down with NBCOlympics.com to discuss his transition from Alpine to ski cross, being a first-time Olympian, working as a mechanic and motocross.
Tell us about your hometown in California.
Growing up in Mammoth has been amazing. Just the nature and everything that Mammoth provides, it's been a playground for me my entire life - just the summer activities and then also the winter activities. Where I grew up in in Mammoth, I could ski in and out of my backyard to a chairlift.
What kind of connection do you have to the community there and how supportive have they been of your skiing career?
The entire community in Mammoth has watched me grow up. They've been there for the good and the bad, but they've been so supportive, helping me get to races and just being supportive of my career all the way through.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Growing up John Teller
What's your earliest memory of the Olympics?
I think my first real Olympic memory is probably Lillehammer when Tommy Moe won. That's probably the first time that I remember watching all the Alpine events.
What did you think when you saw Tommy Moe win?
When Tommy won, I already had the Olympic dream, but just to kind of see that and put it in context a little bit more, it kind of made the dream a little bit more real.
Tell us about the decision to switch from Alpine to freestyle skiing.
I didn't really make a conscious decision to switch. I actually retired from Alpine at about 22, 23, for a little over a year. I was just not having fun with it anymore and needed something new in my life. Then one of my best friends talked me into trying a ski cross race and I was instantly hooked. It made me fall in love with skiing again.
For people who maybe haven't seen ski cross before, how would you describe it and the craziness?
It's kind of motocross meets roller derby meets NASCAR. There's a little bit of bumping and grinding going on, and then it's also just head-to-head competition, and then there's a little bit of a NASCAR effect with just the drafting and the tactics that need to go on in a race.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: John Teller
And what was that transition like initially when you're used to just skiing a course by yourself?
That's probably the hardest transition is having three other guys skiing with you and just throwing that whole human element of the bad things that can happen just because there's somebody else there, you get tripped up on somebody's ski, anything like that. That element alone just makes it so much more dangerous.
You mentioned motocross. We understand you have a background in that as well.
Not really a background, it's just kind of a passion. I grew up around motocross and all my friends had bikes and I rode their bikes here and there, and then about seven years ago I bought my first bike and I was hooked. It's a really fun hobby. I'm definitely a motorhead. Motocross has actually turned into a really, really big training venue for me because it correlates so much with the skill set of what you need to be doing on skis and motocross, they're the exact same, and then also the human factor with the 39 other guys on a gate with you.
What do you envision it might be like to enter the Olympic stadium with Team USA wearing the team jacket for the Opening Ceremony?
Gosh, I don't even know how to describe that. I'm still a little bit numb to the whole fact that I [am] going.
What does it take to become an Olympian day-in and day-out, year-in, year-out? What are some of the sacrifices you've had to make?
The sacrifices that I've had to make, especially when I was younger racing Alpine, I was skiing 200 days a year. Obviously it's something that we love to do, but there's a lot you have to give up when you're younger with friends and some of the extracurricular activities that go on, but I'd have to say it's all worth it. I'm very happy with where I am right now.
Tell me a little about your family's auto body shop and the work you do there when you're not on the mountain.
My grandfather started our garage over 40 years ago and I started working in there about 15 years old. It's kind of just been a part of my life that I never really had a choice to partake in. It just was thrown in my lap and it is something that I love to do. I really enjoy fixing people's cars It's a very gratifying job as well.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Sochi ski and snowboard cross course revealed
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