Olsson wears a refreshing shade of bronze
The Aspen Times
In a sport where results are as important as individual expression, Sweden’s Jon Olsson stands out.
He has the effortless skiing style and the flowing dirty blond hair that peeks out from under his black helmet. There are the piercing green eyes and the marketable persona.
At 23, Olsson is a freeskiing rock star, adored by loyal fans on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the most decorated Winter X Games skier in history, with eight combined slopestyle and superpipe medals. And while he has never finished lower than eighth, Olsson has had little gold to wear with his blue leather ski suits. Six of his medals are bronze.
“This year, I tried to train hard so I wouldn’t get a damn bronze again,” Olsson said, flashing a wide smile. “You don’t get far in this sport if you don’t wanna win, but results aren’t everything.”
Since his 2002 superpipe gold medal performance, Olsson has finished third in five of his last six Winter X competitions. He was fifth in Sunday’s big air competition and will be skiing in Tuesday’s superpipe.
He has been a monument of consistency in a sport, Olsson said, where many athletes go big one day, then don’t make the top half of the leaderboard the next. The scoring is subjective, and while big risk garners big reward, Olsson prefers to keep it simple.
“Maybe I don’t have enough guts,” said Olsson, whose first name is pronounced Yoon. “Maybe I hold back and don’t take enough speed, but I don’t care. I’d rather be technical and smooth.”
Unlike some of his competitors, Olsson doesn’t define his career by the color of medals. He delights in being different.
Most riders wear outfits made by well-known ski companies; Olsson collaborates with high-end fashion designer J. Lindeberg. Monday, he rode the pipe in a black, rabbit-fur jacket and white ski pants; he said it was his “mellow look.”
While most competitors star in backcountry ski videos, Olsson models on the runway and poses for fashion photo shoots. And, in a sport where brash riders create controversy and contrive attitudes for the sake of promotion, Olsson is the consummate professional.
“There are kids in this sport who are super rich and are just putting on an act,” Olsson said. “I’m just being myself and having fun.”
He is as gracious with crowds of young huckers eager for autographs and handshakes as he is during the tedious process of announcing songs for Sirius Satellite Radio, which he did Monday afternoon in the X Games press tent.
His image is far from masculine, yet he makes women blush. Olsson’s girlfriend, Olivia ” clad in moon boots, designer jeans and perfect blond curls ” never leaves his side.
More than 5,000 people came out to watch the world’s best freeskiers compete in the Jon Olsson Invitational last April in Olsson’s hometown of Are. He is swarmed in every one of the country’s ski towns; only in Stockholm does he enjoy some degree of anonymity.
Olsson said he prefers to let others debate his “third best” image. He is enjoying the ride.
“I have kids come up to me and tell me I’m their idol,” Olsson said. “That means so much more than gold.”
Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.
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