Fourteen year old Joey Okesson, of Southbury, is one of the top teenaged half-pipe snowboarders on earth.
“Probably my favorite part about snowboarding is that you can be really creative, and just like have your own way of doing it. There's not one straightforward way,” Joey Okesson said.
“When you're looking and you're standing in Colorado and you're looking up at a 22-foot pipe that's ice, and he's flipping in the air, it's very scary,” said Joey’s mom, Kristin Okesson.
She works through her fear to support her son.
The Okessons have sacrificed a lot. They drive to Vermont most winter weekends so Joey can train, but Kristin believes their family is stronger because of it.
“There's no question it has made us closer. We are able to do something together, and it's awesome,” Kristin Okesson said.
Joey first jumped on a snow board at the age of 8 and hasn't looked back. He even messes around on homemade jumps in his backyard, for a long time though it was just a hobby.
“I was just snowboarding on the weekends, and having fun. I never would have thought I'd get this far,” Joey Okesson said.
Everything changed when Joey started to compete. He was a natural, who finished in the top five in the national championship.
It's like I kind of built a name for myself and what I do,” Joey Okesson said.
Later this month, Joey is taking a big jump in a competition.
Joey just became one of only 16 boys from all over the globe to be invited to compete in the Burton U.S. Open Junior Jam in Vail, Colorado. It means he's one of the best of the best.
“It's crazy to think about like top 16 in the world,” Joey Okesson said.
The huge honor also means more sacrifices for the family.
Joey began going to school in Vermont so he can devote more hours to training. His mom said despite the difficulty, it was an easy decision. This sport has taught her son so much.
“The easiest lesson of all, which is hard work pays off. The harder you work, the luckier you get and for Joey, that's the case,” Kristin Okesson said. “There isn't a kid that I've met that works harder than him. To be great at what he does.”
No matter what, Joey says family will remain his top priority. In fact, he's already grooming his protégé.
Joey’s 9-year-old brother Tommy is already a national champion at his age level, and he credits his big brother for all of his skills.
“He teaches me a lot of stuff too, like forces me to do it and then he says it's really easy and then I do it and then I'm just like wow that's really easy,” Tommy Okesson said.
The achievements have taught Joey to dream big.
“It's definitely given me a lot of confidence just in regular everyday life,” Joey Okesson said.
Later this month in Vail, whether Joey wins or loses, his mom will be there struggling to watch.
She's proud of both her boys for reasons that go above and beyond what they do on snowboards, even if what they do on snowboards is really cool.
“The first and foremost thing is just being good kids and school, and snowboarding’s third. And that's super important,” Kristin Okesson said.
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