U.S. Freestyle Team: Joe Pack


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, 23

Park City, Utah

Bronze at the World Championships in 1999 and 2001; three World Cup victories and another seven top-five finishes; U.S. aerials champion in 1999 and 2002.

Is it fun?
“I’m having a blast, are you kidding? I have a great time. Even if you’re having a bad day you still get to hang out with all your freestyle buddies, and the guys and girls are just so much fun they’ll cheer you up in a second.”

Best perk of being a World Cup skier:
“Not having to pay for a lift ticket.”

Worst thing about being a World Cup skier:
“Living out of a suitcase sucks. It’s no fun. I’m never good at keeping up on laundry, so we have to pack for three weeks and it’s like, all right, 30 T-shirts, four dress shirts, 10 pair of pants — hope I got everything!”

On the importance of a well-shaped jump:
“What do you have to do to do a backflip? That’s our big thing. You don’t have to do anything. You just stand back and get yourself in the right position and hopefully the jump will send you up and then once you leave the jump, you have no resistance against you. You’re just traveling in space. The slightest little arm movements will make you be able to do the slightest thing. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So if the jump is good, you’re not going to have to work as hard. It just sends you flying.”

On aerials and the Olympic Games:
“When I started aerials, aerials wasn’t an Olympic sport. I didn’t get into it to go to the Olympics. I got into it because I thought it was really cool. Then in’97, my first year on the team, I came on strong, won a World Cup, and placed in the top 10 five or six times. All of a sudden, I started doing really, really well. I’m like, ‘Whoa, I could be on the Olympic Team, the U.S. Olympic Team.’ If you make the team, that’s a life achievement. No one can ever take that away from you.”

Show time:
“We’re performers.”

Closest competition:
“I think I am my closest competition, but Eric Bergoust and I, we definitely battle it out. Not in a crazy competition way. It’s more for fun. If I get second to Bergoust, I’m happy. He’s by far the best jumper in the entire world. He’s got the most immaculate form in the world. His whole life is just engulfed. If I did the perfect jump and landed on my feet and he did the perfect jump and landed on his feet, he’s going to be better because he’s that much better. He’s a step above everybody and if I’m second to him, I’m totally happy.”

Competitive edge:
“I have a very small amount of fear. If it’s snowing outside and it’s windy, people are freaking out. I’m just like, ‘Let’s go!’ I love it. It’s fun. My competitive edge is that fear doesn’t bother me. Very few things bother me. I’ll take some serious beatings, too. Doesn’t matter. I’ll jump with pain. I like that stuff. It’s competition, it’s fun, it’s good.”

Other sports:
Golf, motocross, pickup basketball, and football.

Sports injuries:
“In 1997, I blew out my knee two months before the Olympics. It wasn’t just blown out, not just like a small surgery. It was ACL, MCL, both sides’ lateral and medial meniscus, and the meniscus was torn in half. I had a tib-fib fracture too. I didn’t walk for two months. I separated my shoulder and I’ve had five or six concussions from skiing and playing football and soccer and jumping. I had stitches in my head, and staples taken out a couple of days ago. I put my head through a trampoline doing a show. That was my ninth set of staples in my head. I got one in my eye, one in my lip, three in my chin, four on the back of my hand, on the back of my knee. I’ve also had a partially torn Achilles tendon, a broken wrist, and cracked ribs. All from sports.”

What he will do if he wins the gold:
“Celebrate. Thank everybody who got me there and then get back and report June 1 to training cammp for next season.”

“We do so much visualization, ask any aerialist. You see it in your mind before you do it. You see it and you can see exactly what you’re doing. You can see your facial expressions. You can put yourself in there. I mean, if you think about something enough, it’s going to happen. We tape a thousand jumps every summer. You sit there and you watch it and you watch it and you watch it. It’s like a golfer who takes the same swing over and over and over. It’s muscle memory and you just tell yourself you can do it and you see it in your mind and — boom — you put that little ball 500 yards down the course and it’s in the hole.”

“It’s pretty low. It’s 13. I want them to come off when they’re supposed to. There have been a couple of times when I’ve either strained a quad or strained my knee because they didn’t come off because they were up to 21. I don’t need them at 21. If I land right, they’re going to stay on.”

Favorite food:
“A 16-ounce N.Y. strip. I grill it. I like it medium. A little brown sugar, ketchup, A-1, barbecue sauce, a lot of salt, a little garlic salt.”

People would be surprised to know:
“I like to huck my carcass 60 feet in the air. Other than that I’m pretty much an everyday average Joe.”

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