Nico Porteous battled heavy wind gusts Saturday in the men's freeski halfpipe final to capture New Zealand's second-ever Winter Games gold, joined by fellow 2018 medalists David Wise and Alex Ferreira of the U.S. for a jumbled re-order of the PyeongChang podium.
The reigning world and two-time X Games champion stomped back-to-back double cork 1620s in both directions on Run 1 to score a 93.00, ultimately earning him freestyle skiing's final title of the Games and upgrading his bronze from four years ago, won as he was just 16.
"I'm currently over the moon. I still can't really believe it," said Porteous, whose brother Miguel finished 11th. "The weather conditions were tough today … But I stomped what I knew and tried my best and left everything out there and – it's so freezing cold right now, I'm lost for words."
Wise, a father of two, entering as the two-time defending gold medalist from Sochi and PyeongChang, paired back-to-back 1260s to close out his first run for a 90.75. That held for silver, the 31-year-old's third Olympic medal.
"It was a pretty wild day out there with the wind," he said. "If anything … it’s kind of a little bit of an advantage for me because I have these guys outweighed by 30 or 40 pounds (laughs). So you know, you just kind of embrace it and say, 'All right, this is the conditions that it is.'"
His teammate Ferreira, silver medalist in PyeongChang, pole-twirled his way to an 86.75 on Run 1, but wasn't able to improve and took bronze. A native of Aspen, Colorado, the two-time X Games champion won December's Copper Grand Prix before back-to-back runner-up finishes at Calgary Snow Rodeo.
"I'm ecstatic," the 27-year-old said. "The hardest workers get up on the podium and Dave's a great friend of mine. He's a good person. Nico [is] a good friend of mine. He inspires me … Sometimes the universe has other plans for you and you have to adapt as we do."
Fellow American Aaron Blunck, the top qualifier, put down two runs in the 70s before coming down on his head in a fall during Run 3. Wise ran up the halfpipe to check on the 2019 world champion, who was able to ski down under his own power.
Meanwhile, Sochi 2014 slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy, now competing for Great Britain, also suffered a hard hit in his Olympic halfpipe final debut, crumpling like an accordion on the deck due to a wind gust. He appeared OK and also skied away on his own, able to throw down a clean third run for 71.25.
Porteous' compatriot Zoi Sadowski-Synnott claimed the Kiwis' first Winter Games gold on Feb. 6 in snowboarding's first event of the Games, women's slopestyle, also spoiling a three-peat bid by a U.S. athlete.
Wise and Ferreira's medals are Team USA's seventh and eighth earned in freestyle skiing, the nation's most in any sport at the 2022 Games.
David Wise grabs third career Olympic medal
Wise endured a challenging interim cycle after the 2018 Games. He broke his femur in spring 2019 and spent 11 days in an Austrian hospital. With a rod in place from his knee to hip, he returned that December to take second at the U.S. Grand Prix in Copper.
Last year, he just missed the podium at the U.S. Olympic qualifying opener in Aspen. He began this season seventh at December's Copper Grand Prix, then took fifth at Dew Tour, eighth at consecutive Calgary World Cups and closed out the January leadup as Mammoth Grand Prix runner-up and third-place finisher at X Games.
An avid bow hunter, he aspires to make the U.S. Olympic archery team for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
The Nevadan came within three points of a three-peat, which would've made him the first U.S. man to win three straight golds in the same individual event in Winter Games history.