David Wise is having the time of his life.
And his family is there to join in every moment.
The Reno, Nevada native, who captured the first-ever Olympic gold medal in men’s ski halfpipe, is back to defend his title at PyeongChang and after years of challenges, good and bad, Wise is determined to bring home a bit more hardware. Here’s everything you need to know about Wise and the people he’s competing for:
1. Wise & His Wife, Alexandra, Tied the Knot in 2011
He’s a bit of a rarity.
Wise is very a much a family man off the snow. He and his wife Alexandra were married in 2011 and the couple welcome their first child, a daughter Nayeli, later that year. They also have a son, Malachi, who was born in 2014. It’s a dynamic that sets Wise apart from some of his contemporaries and, most importantly, reminds him of all the reasons he’s competing. He told NBC Olympics:
My kids are an important part of keeping me grounded as an athlete. It is easy to get caught up in what you are doing and what is happening in the sport and lose perspective, but at the end of the day we professional athletes are grown-ups playing games for a living. It is more important to me to be the best husband and father that I can be, than to win any title or championship. It takes the pressure off and I can just go out and enjoy my craft.
Of course, when Wise isn’t skiing he can usually be found spending time with his family. The skier told NBC Olympics he spends most of his free time outside, staying active with his kids and, sometimes, bowhunting or slacklining.
2. The Couple’s Son, Malachi, Suffered a Febrile Seizure in 2016
Wise lived through his worst nightmare in the spring 0f 2016 when, while competing at the Oslo X Games in Norway, he received a call from his wife – their son, Malachi, then only 18 months old, had stopped breathing, was convulsing and turning blue.
It was determined Malachi had suffered a febrile seizure, which occurs when a child has a sudden spike in body temperature. Although Malachi didn’t have any lingering issues after the seizure, the ordeal was still jarring for both his parents and made Wise even more determined to succeed whenever he was away from home.
He told USA Today Sports: “It was a super difficult time and we were going through a lot of loss. In the same way that it served to make me stronger as an athlete, all of that adversity just served to bring us tighter as a family. My wife and I are as strong as we’ve ever been, and my kids so stoked to be part of the journey.”
3. Wise’s Sister, Christy, Lost Her Leg in a Boating Accident in 2015
Wise was only a little more than a year removed from his gold-medal performance in Sochi when, quite suddenly, his entire world changed.
The text message came in April 2015 when Christy Wise, one of his two older sisters, was in a boating accident in Florida. She’d been paddle boating when another boat hit her, catching her leg in the propeller and then fleeing the scene. A nearby fishing boat was able to get Christy out of the water, but the damage was already done – Christy survived, but lost her leg.
Wise discussed the moment, telling the Los Angeles Times:
We naturally take life for granted. We naturally take things like legs for granted. It made me realize that I need to be grateful for everything I have. … I’ve literally lived the life that everybody dreams of living and I know in my heart that doing things for myself isn’t going to fulfill me at the end of the day.
Christy, a veteran Air Force who piloted HC-130 search and rescue aircraft, remained upbeat in the years that followed, determined not to let the accident knock her off course. It was more than enough to inspire Wise as well.
He’s donated 10 percent of his contest winnings to her charity One Leg Up on Life every time he finished on the podium this past season. The organization, founded by Christy and her twin sister Jessica after the accident, helps provide prosthetics to children around the world.
4. He & Alexandra Lead the Youth Group at Their Church
Wise has never been shy about discussing his faith or how important that belief has been to his career. In fact, the Reno native and his wife lead the youth group at their church when they aren’t on the international circuit.
The 27-year-old credited his faith with helping him return to the Olympic Games, particularly when he was faced with a seemingly never-ending string of personal and professional challenges. He wrote on his blog that he appreciates “the opportunity to represent my country, my hometown and MY people in the Olympics this year more than I knew I was capable of. I also know that all of this is temporary, and that is ok. Everything that I have is a gift from God, and He can take it away when He wants to.”
5. The Wise Family Is in PyeongChang
It hasn’t been an easy road back to the top for Wise.
After facing the metaphorical and literal highs and lows of the last few years, the defending gold medalist saw his skiing suffer with each new challenge. He wrote on his blog that some of his sponsors walked away and one even cited “contract violations” to cut ties ahead of the Games. It’s been a challenge every step of the way for Wise, but through it all, the support of his family has never wavered.
And the same holds true now that he’s in PyeongChang.
The family made the trip to the Games and Aleaxndra will be in the stands with the couple’s two children as Wise looks to notch another dominant performance against international competition. He told Religion News his family’s presence would make all the difference, no matter what happens: “Everything that I have is a gift from God, and He can take it away when He wants to. I am surrounded by people who truly love and support me for who I am, not what I do on a pair of skis and not for any level of success I could attain.”