Nico Porteous is at the top of the world but he still gets called the “rookie”.
“One of them always calls me rookie,” he says about competing with some of the world’s best freestyle skiers on the freeski world tour.
“It’s kind of just like a funny joke between us that I’m the rookie even though he’s probably only been on tour [for a few years] … he’s probably only 24 or something. But he still calls me the rookie which is pretty funny.”
It’s what you might expect if you’re a 17-year-old bursting on to the scene. This rookie, however, has racked up a fair few accomplishments after a whirlwind 12 months that has seen him skyrocket to the top of the freestyle skiing world.
It’s been exactly a year since Porteous became New Zealand’s youngest Olympic medallist after claiming bronze in the freestyle skiing men’s halfpipe in Pyeongchang — breaking the previous record set just a few hours earlier by fellow Kiwi teenager Zoi Sadowski-Synnott who won bronze in the women’s snowboard big air.
Since then, Porteous has gone on to win bronze at the X Games and now tops the World Cup standings after finishing second at the latest stop of the freeski world tour. He was also a finalist for the Sportsman of the Year award at Thursday night’s Halberg Awards.
“I couldn’t have [imagined being in this situation] I don’t think. It all just kind of happened,” he says.
“I just let things happen in the way that they do and I don’t try to control them … but it’s really cool to be in this situation now.”
One memory still sticks out for Porteous when looking back at his historic Winter Olympic achievement, one captured in a photo that still brings a smile to his face.
“I’ve got one really clear memory of just that moment when the score came in and I really wasn’t expecting to have that big of a score. That moment is pretty clear in my head and is something I hope will always stay clear in my head because it was pretty special for me.
“[The photo] is pretty funny. It always makes me laugh when I watch that video or see that photo.”
It’s also meant he has had to get used to a few things he’s not used to doing such as media interviews and signing autographs.
He admits the change in lifestyle can be challenging but it’s something he tries to separate from his personal life.
“Occasionally I get asked to maybe sign something or take a few photos but other than that it’s all the same.
“I really try and separate it from my everyday life and that. You know when I get a request I do it and then life continues on after that.
“But when I’m at home and just around all my mates I’m treated the same. I’m just the same person I was before the Olympics.”
But for Porteous it’s all worth it if it means it lets him continue to do what he loves, and especially if it means pushing the sport forward.
“After what happened last year and all the media that kind of came out of it, I really wanted to just promote skiing and use it as a way of getting a lot more people into skiing in New Zealand. And I think it has happened.
“I don’t know if I’m at the forefront of it — I’m definitely just a skier in New Zealand — but I think it’s so cool because New Zealand has such amazing mountains and facilities that it would be rude not to take advantage of them.”