Nick Goepper was on top of the world after winning a bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But when he returned home to the United States, he found himself face-to-face with a completely different battle: depression.
“After the 2014 Olympics, the following year, I had some pretty deep personal struggles, particularly with my mental health,” the freestyle skier, 23, tells Us Weekly exclusively. “I dealt with some depression and some anxiety and some manic depression, which sometimes comes with being a high achiever.”
But Goepper didn’t feel alone. “[If] you look across the board, Michael Jordan was diagnosed as a manic depressive by a Chicago Bulls psychologist and unfortunately that was a byproduct of some hard times I was going through,” he says. “I think with getting some help and getting perspective and growing up a little bit, I think it helped me to overcome that and become stronger.”
The road to recovery wasn’t easy, though. He was charged with criminal mischief in December 2014 after throwing rocks at cars in his home state of Indiana during a bout of depression. He later apologized and the charges were dropped following a two-month stint in rehab the following year.
Now competing in PyeongChang, South Korea, the athlete is feeling better than ever. “I feel like I’m strong enough to go forward as an individual,” he tells Us. “Those that are closest to me know the nature of my personality and my past, so they’re very supportive.”
It also helps that he has his girlfriend, Lizzy Braun, by his side. “She understands my lifestyle and my attitude and … she’s really energetic and fun,” he gushes. “I’m blushing!”
To learn more about Goepper, visit teamusa.org. The 2018 Winter Olympics air on NBC.
With reporting by Carly Sloane.
Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!