Louie Vito is prepared to show the rest of the snowboarding world just the type of competitor he can be on the international stage. He's hoping that Sochi can be the venue that sets up a long career of international stardom.
Vito, professional snowboarder and member of Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, is focusing on doing the absolute best he can while qualifying for 2014's games in Sochi. It's a daunting task, but he's determined to perform to the best of his ability.
I was lucky enough to sit down with the Sochi hopeful this past week to discuss his goals for the upcoming Games, though our conversation began with Delta Air Lines' #GoldLuck campaign that took place this past weekend (Jan. 11-12).
Delta, which happens to be the official airline of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), gave fans the opportunity to create 10-second videos for their favorite winter athletes to see prior to competing.
Vito was thrilled to take part in the campaign, especially given his love for spreading the sport. "It's always fun to get a chance to talk with everyone, you know—especially people who don't know much about snowboarding."
Fans will have two more opportunities make their videos for the #GoldLuck campaign. Park City, Utah and Mammoth, California will take part from Jan. 17-18 and Jan. 17-19, respectively.
Promoting his sport is something that Vito prides himself on doing. Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Vito has always had a passion for the sport. He rode the same mountain (Mad River Mountain) every day when he was a kid, and those small-town roots are what brings him back every year for his annual Louie Vito Rail Jam.
The Rail Jam serves two purposes: It is a charitable event that raises money for the St. Vincent DePaul Food Shelf in Bellefontaine, Ohio, and it also gives up-and-coming riders the opportunity to make a name for themselves on a bigger stage.
"I'm always trying to introduce people to the sport that I love so much," he said.
Vito is humbled by the response he routinely gets from the Rail Jam, as well as the response he received from Delta's #GoldLuck campaign:
Any time I get to meet the people that are stoked to get an autograph, you know, it's very humbling for me just because it is cool to see the support and that people are actually hyped to meet me. It's cool to meet people who are inspired by you.
In regards to the upcoming Olympics, Vito has high hopes. While not necessarily disappointed with his fifth-place finish in half-pipe in 2010, Vito is aware that the pressures of competing in his first Winter Olympics will be gone this time around. Instead, the pressure that exists will only be what he puts on himself:
Going through it the first time, you don't really know what to expect. Going into it the second time, you will have a little more knowledge. But, I also put a little more pressure on myself because I've been there before. I have high expectations of my riding.
Currently, Vito is competing with several other riders for the four spots on the Olympic snowboarding team. Vito, Kelly Clark, Greg Bretz, Ben Ferguson, Taylor Gold, Jamie Anderson, Chas Guldemond, Sage Kotsenburg and Shaun White are all fighting for four spots on the roster.
On the possibility of qualifying over a legend like White, Vito was both excited and realistic:
Shaun has done so much for the sport. I think he's a great representative of the sport and a great representative of our country. I wouldn't count him out of taking a spot and me taking a spot—you know, there are four.
Should he qualify, Vito has some interesting things planned. While he wouldn't get into specifics, he did let me know what would dictate how creative he decides to get while competing:
Yeah, I mean, I've got some stuff that I haven't done yet this season that hopefully I can get going moving forward. We're going to have to see how the contest goes and how my riding is going. Confidence is important.
Vito is one of the most talented riders in the sport, and he'll certainly bring an element of excitement to the team should he qualify. White may be the most decorated athlete that snowboarding has ever seen, but Vito's resume speaks for itself.
U.S. Olympic snowboarding team to be decided after 'marathon' week http://t.co/g4BCt6AGwi— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 15, 2014
The 25-year-old has won 20 Gold Medals from various competitions, including a gold in Men's Snowboard Superpipe at the most recent X-Games. He has already been an Olympian and is well on his way to potentially competing again.
Regarding what he can bring to the team that makes him unique, Vito was short, sweet and to the point.
"I definitely ride a lot different than other people. I'm a pretty technical rider. I try to put everything I can into my runs."
"At the end of the day, I can only do what I can do—and that's what I'm trying to focus on."
Look out for Vito at the upcoming qualifiers. Should he make it to Sochi, he'll be a legitimate competitor.