Winter Park’s Birk Irving qualifies for Beijing 2022 Olympics
Winter Park native Birk Irving will be competing in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
The 22-year-old freestyle skier will be making his Olympic debut on the men’s freeski halfpipe team. On Thursday, as he prepared for the weekend’s X Games Aspen 2022, Irving said over the phone that the opportunity still felt surreal.
“It still doesn’t seem real right now to be going to the Olympics,” he said. “It’s definitely the opportunity of a lifetime for me for sure, just to like see that whole thing. I’m just really excited to be on that team and be able to go there with some of the best skiers in the world.”
The US men’s halfpipe team also includes two-time gold medalist David Wise, 2018 Olympic silver medalist Alex Ferreira of Aspen and three-time Olympian Aaron Blunk of Crested Butte.
Irving has been among the top four throughout the season, and said staying consistent in his performance is what helped get him to Beijing.
“I just did what I always do, because I knew if I skied like I’ve been skiing I would end up on the team,” he said.
Irving said leading up to the Olympics, he’s focusing on keeping his body healthy and avoiding catching COVID-19 again. He explained that his approach throughout the qualification process has been to look at each competition individually.
“Throughout the whole qualifying process it’s like super stressful,” he said. “It’s really high intensity, especially for the US Team. It’s like everybody is very capable of making it. That whole time was really stressful. I was just trying to not think about it as much. Just doing everything comp by comp and then go from there.”
Irving will be heading to the Olympics with a few medals under his belt, heaving made the X Games podium for the first time last year with a bronze on the superpipe. Back in 2016, Irving also won gold in the Winter Youth Olympics on the halfpipe, and he hopes that experience will help him with the upcoming challenge.
“That was like basically just a smaller scale version, but pretty identical to the Olympics in the way they set it up with all the different teams being there,” Irving said. “I just remember being there like, ‘This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done’ —but I’m sure the Olympics will be like next level version of it, I see now.”
He plans to approach in the Olympics like any other competition, though one at a bigger scale.
“I think as far as like competitive wise, I’ll probably approach it the same as I would every other event,” Irving said.
He’s most excited to see the Olympic Village and meet athletes from so many other sports, because he’s usually only around the skiers and snowboarders.
“It’ll be sick to be in that atmosphere with all those other different disciplines,” he said.
The 2022 Beijing Olympics kick off Feb. 4. The qualification run for the Men’s Freeski Halfpipe is on Feb. 17, with the final runs Feb. 19.
Before that, Irving competes 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Aspen X Games, which will air on both ESPN and ABC. On Thursday, he said he was looking forward to competing in Aspen.
“I think that will be super fun; it’s always a sick event,” he said. “Coming off of third last year, hoping I can better that this year.”
Irving added that he’s grateful to his sponsors, parents, the staff on the US Team and his whole support system for helping get him to the Olympics.
“I definitely would not be in this scenario without them,” he said.
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