Veteran skier Jossi Wells breaks through for first X Games gold

ASPEN, Colo. – For 22 previous competitions, Jossi Wells had come to the X Games hoping for gold. For all those 22 times, the mother of New Zealand’s first family of freeskiing had watched her son fall short of that goal from across the globe.

So when Wells finally broke through to win his first gold medal in his 11th X Games, it was especially poignant to have his mother, Stacey, at the base of the slopestyle course.

Wells, 25, scored a 90.00 to win the men’s ski slopestyle here at Buttermilk Mountain on Sunday. Although he’s competed in big air, halfpipe and slopestyle competitions here since 2007, it was the first time Stacey Wells had traveled to see her eldest son compete in this event.

“It was time to bring out, and to bring her out here and have her at the bottom when I got the gold finally is a pretty awesome feeling,” said Wells.

Two of his three other pro freeskiing brothers were set to compete here at the X Games. The family affair in which the four sons and their father, Bruce, who is also their coach, travel to compete usually left Stacey Wells at home.

“We’re all feeling pretty good and pretty healthy, and so we thought it’d be a good year to bring her out and check it out,” said Jossi Wells. “We thought we’d be able to give her a good showing at X Games.”

It was a milestone for the veteran skier who has pushed through injuries throughout his career. He broke his neck on a jump 18 months ago, leading to a long recovery. He gets stem-cell treatments for patellar tendon issues in his knees.

Over the last couple years, Wells said he lost his love for halfpipe so he decided to give it up to focus on slopestyle this season.

He took silver at the Dew Tour in December before winning gold here.

“Since I’ve made that decision, it’s been amazing,” said Wells. “I’ve been skiing a lot better in slopestyle. My knees have been a lot more manageable, so I think it’s been a pretty good decision of mine.”

Gus Kenworthy took silver, giving him a second medal of that hue after he’d endured a five-year drought at the X Games. Kenworthy won halfpipe silver on Thursday.

“It honestly feels so incredible,” said Kenworthy. “I think (Jossi’s) an amazing guy, amazing skier. I thought he skied beautifully today. I feel honored to take second place to him.”

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