SOCHI, Russia -- Anytime Torin Yater-Wallace returns to his home in Basalt, situated in the Colorado mountains near Aspen, he listens to envious words from friends and former classmates.
They wish they could travel the world as a ski competitor. They wish they could savor the sights and taste the exotic food. They wish they could be freed of the day-to-day grind of attending a typical American high school.
Yater-Wallace is 18. He's wise enough to realize he should be grateful for his rapid rise in ski racing. He's competing in the Olympics on Tuesday in the halfpipe, and he's considered a medal contender. This is a massive blessing, and he knows it.
But he often offers a startling reply to his friends in Basalt.
I sometimes wish, he tells his friends, I could be you.
Late last year, as he prepared for this trip to the Russian mountains, Yater-Wallace talked about the rewards and burdens of his life.
He's completing his high school education by means of an online program. He misses the experience of sitting in a classroom, surrounded by his friends, listening to a teacher. He realizes this regret might sound strange, but it's the truth.
He wishes he could attend high school dances. He wishes he could live all the time in the same town so he could pursue a steady girlfriend.
He wishes he could enjoy all the benefits of life as an elite skier while also savoring all the joys of life as a typical American teenager.
Yes, he knows this is impossible, but he still can wish.
Yater-Wallace almost missed this Olympic trip. He suffered two broken ribs and a collapsed lung after a December fall at the Dew Tour championships in Breckenridge. He battled back and made the team.
On Thursday, Yater-Wallace watched his American teammates celebrate a medal sweep in slopestyle skiing. An American TV reporter asked if a big party was ahead for Yater-Wallace at the Olympic Village.
"No," Yater-Wallace said.
The reporter was surprised.
She asked why not.
"I'm 18," Yater-Wallace said.
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