- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - To be a great athlete most need some type of natural-born, talent. To become an Olympian, one needs so much more.

Butte native Bradley Wilson combined talent, passion and dogged effort to become one of the best skiers in the world. It is that recipe that has given him the opportunity to represent the United States in the men’s mogul competition at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

His event is set to begin at 7 a.m. Monday (MTS) with the qualification rounds. The finals are set to start four hours later.

Until then, the 2011 graduate of Butte Central is taking in the experience at one of the more talked about and controversial locations for the Winter Games.

“The experience so far has been amazing,” Wilson said in an email from Sochi on Wednesday. “What a crazy place it is here, you get off the plane and there are palm trees next to the Black Sea, then an hour away you are skiing on some of the biggest mountains I’ve ever seen, and where it is cold enough to keep the snow nice.”

Wilson, 21, qualified for the Olympics in January when he finished third at the moguls FIS World Cup in Quebec, Canada.

Now he will embark on taking the next step to join his older brother, Bryon Wilson, who won a bronze medal in the same event during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. Bryon barely missed out on the chance to compete alongside his brother in Sochi.

“The course is pretty tough and it seems like most of the venues here are pretty difficult as far as what I’ve heard,” Bradley Wilson said. “It’s shaping up nice. The weather has been great, too, so far, with blue skies every day. It’s beautiful. I am looking forward to the next couple days of training and the event on Monday.”

Monday will, in all probability, be the biggest day of Bradley Wilson’s life.

So, how did a kid from the Mining City get to Sochi? From all who spoke on behalf of him, it was a combination of physical talent, a lot of determination, and a good heart that paved the way.

“I have been friends with Brad since the third grade,” Jonathan Richards said. “We played little-guy football together as well as basketball, when he wasn’t skiing, up until high school. Brad has always been extremely driven, even when we were 9, 10 years old. Brad never backed down to anyone, whether it was skiing, basketball or football. I always really admired Brad for that.”

Richards also noted that part of what makes Wilson who he is comes from a tight-knit family, one that taught him the art of humility and a strong work ethic.

His father, also named Bryon Wilson, works for UPS. He and Jeanette worked part-time remodeling homes, with their sons in tow.

“We brought him onto the slopes at the age of 4, so he started pretty early,” Bradley’s father said. “He took off right away and he skied as good as he walked. He was naturally gifted, but it takes a lot of patience to get to the position he is at.

“He was taught to work hard. Don’t give a kid time to get into any trouble and they won’t. He was taught to be humble and help other people. You don’t have to go out and brag about yourself and don’t toot your own horn. Let others do it.”

The Wilson parents also used the brothers’ love of the sport against them to motivate Bradley and the junior Bryon to stay headed in the right direction.

“We also stressed any drugs and alcohol and there would be no more funding. They took it seriously,” the Wilson patriarch said. “They had friends who would go out (and party) but they would stick to it. A little pat on a back a little lower doesn’t hurt when you don’t follow the rules, but it didn’t take much. They are good, clean-cut, people who work hard.”

It was Bradley’s unbridled love for the sport that kept him on the straight and narrow. It was his focus that took him further than most on the planet. Not only did he help work on homes, but his school grades were required to be up to the family’s expectations or he would not be allowed on the slopes.

“This sport takes commitment and that’s why I love it,” Jeanette Wilson said. “No one has made the Olympics without having a decade under their belt to get where they are. It takes a lot of work to be an Olympian in mogul skiing.”

Jeanette also attributes some of her newest Olympian son’s growth to being raised in Montana, and specifically Butte, even though they now all live in Park City, Utah, after moving there nearly a decade ago to help get the boys stronger training.

Bradley was raised in a great community where he was raised to be a boy and yet play hard,” she said. “It is about hard work. We are a middle-class community in Butte and no one puts a lot on money. They were raised to have self-respect. With the sport, you have to work hard to do well. They had their good roots in Montana and that helped him. People in Butte care about each other. He trains in Park City, but he’s from Montana.”

Once he turned 11, Bradley turned his primary focus toward skiing, attending Butte Central during his first semester but only until the sport’s season began. He would then pack up and head to Park City to train before heading out to competitions all over the map.

Teachers emailed him his assignments, so he was able to keep up with his studies before returning to Butte at the end of each spring semester.

His success came as no surprise to those back in Butte.

“I am not surprised at all because ever since he was little, whatever he worked at he was good at it,” said Bradley’s cousin, Cole Noctor. “He was a natural athlete. We played doubles in tennis and we made state (in 2010) while he used a two-dollar Venus Williams racket. Whatever he does, he works hard at it.”

Noctor has also had the chance to watch his cousin ski.

“It’s unbelievable when he’s out their skiing,” Noctor said. “I can ski all the runs, but one tip from Brad and you are instantly a better skier. He makes everything look so easy. When he skis mogul it’s pretty unreal. When you watch him ski, it gives you a respect for how good he is. The hills you see on TV don’t give them justice. I tried to ski (a world championship course) in Deer Valley, Utah, this year, and I barely made it down and went as slow as I can go. It really shows how much effort he’s put into and how good he’s gotten because he makes it look so easy.”

Some of it came from Wilson’s time as a child participating in gymnastics.

“I was asked by a friend to have the boys join for company,” Jeanette said. “I didn’t want to put my boys in a leotard. Both boys loved it and were practically doing back flips after practices. That helped him to get a full body musculature. I was forced to do it then, but now I am one of the biggest advocates for gymnastics.”

Bradley’s brother Bryon, despite not making it two consecutive Olympic trips, was effusive in his praise of his younger brother.

“He and I have been very close our whole lives and it’s been a team effort with our whole family to see him make the Olympics,” he said. “To see him do so well is great for me. I am proud of him because he is a great skier. We are now both Olympians and he will be one for the rest of his life.”

The elder brother was also able to provide a solid scouting report on Bradley’s ability.

“Technically he is very strong and is able to go very fast with the way he skis,” Bryon said. “His jumps are getting harder and harder with a degree of difficulty which helps create a top-notch skier. He is able to stay strong mentally and not let things distract him and he stays focused which is huge.

“Now he’s doing some tough tricks where he should be pretty competitive.”

___

Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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