POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 19, 2014
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia >> For freestyle skier David Wise, the reminders of home, two doses of perspective, sat inside a zippered pocket of his uniform and on a wooden stick at the bottom of the halfpipe.
His wife, Alexandra, had given him a heart-shaped rocked that she had brought from home in Reno, Nev. He placed it inside a pocket with a zipper, so that it would not fly out during his series of aerial tricks.
At the bottom of the course, Alexandra held two large photographs of the face of their 2-year-old daughter, Nayeli, affixed to either side of a stick. Nayeli was with relatives in Nevada, but her oversize two-dimensional faces were in the front row.
After Wise won the gold medal, in the debut of ski halfpipe at the Olympics, he tackled his wife and his facsimile daughter in a group hug.
"I think it's more important to be a good husband and father than it is to be a great skier," he said.
Sloppy conditions kept Wise and his competitors from performing their usual mix of acrobatics above the 22-foot walls of the halfpipe. But Wise brought an eclectic combination of spins and flips, punctuated with a pair of double-cork 1260s, to earn a winning score of 92.
Canada's Mike Riddle earned the silver medal and France's Kevin Rolland the bronze.
For years, Wise has brought home a small, heart-shaped rock from every place that he goes, as a reminder that he is always thinking of Alexandra and Nayeli. The rocks, dozens of them, line a window sill at their home.
Soon enough, the lucky rock from the Olympics will be on the window sill and the gold medal will be on a shelf in the living room. Nayeli, the real thing, will be there to scream her father's name -- "David Wise!" -- as she often does when she sees him.
"I can come out here and do what I love to do," Wise said. "The pressure's off. I just get to enjoy it."