Small-Town Boy Makes Good

Men’s Olympic Halfpipe Gold Medalist Gian SimmenWhen Gian Simmen won a gold medal in Nagano, people gasped, “Who?” and “You mean that guy from KISS?” No one had heard of the funny kid from a small town in Switzerland who took to the podium in February. In the snowboarding world-where big names and personalities somehow define your skills on a board-people considering themselves aficionados of snowboaring’s players cried foul. Why wouldn’t they? They’d never heard of him. Without further introduction, meet Gian Simmen (definitely not the guy from KISS, that would be Gene Simmons).

Where are you from?

I’m from Arosa-a little village in the mountains of Switzerland.

Tell me about your winning halfpipe run.

I was riding at 100-percent risk and trying to go as big as possible, mixing straight airs with spins.

Did you think you were going to win?

Not really. I just thought it would be fun. I want to have fun in the future and be free in my mind-ride snowboards and skateboards around the world.

A lot of people are saying Daniel Franck should have won. What do you have to say about that?

I think on that day I did my best to win. The judges thought I won. The score said I won. I did the best run I could, and I won. I only saw Daniel’s second run and it was awesome. I heard that Daniel fell in his second run. Both runs count, and I had two good ones.

Didn’t your hometown of Arosa throw you a party when you returned from Japan?

Oh yeah, my hometown threw me a super-good party with free drinks at the most famous disco in town. School was closed for the day, and there were congratulations banners everywhere.

How is life as a gold medalist? Is it different?

No, I’m not different. Right now, I’m still the small kid from Switzerland who just won one contest. To some people who put the Olympics on a high level, I’m a superstar. But Terje is the best snowboarder in the world, and all the fame should belong to him.

That was the first contest you’ve ever won?

Yes, I’ve come close. I’ve done very well-but this is my first win.

Now that it’s over, do you think it had a big impact on the sport?

Many people saw the Olympics on TV. So maybe more riders will be motivated to train for the next Games, but I don’t care about that-I don’t look that far forward.

Has it the Olympics had a big impact on you?

It opened doors I had never seen before, but the most important thing to me-no matter what titles they or I have-is going out with friends and snowboarding. It’s snowboarding my life and love and the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

What would you like to say to our readers?

Snowboarding is not about the Olympics. Snowboarding is not about politics or fame. It’s about fun on the board!

Thanks to everybody supporting me, especially Santa Cruz and Nike.

Congratulations, Gian, thank you.