Tucker Perkins has been one of the strongest U.S. halfpipe skiers for years, but in 2014, he'll be switching from competitor to judge. Perkins, a New Hampshire native who's turning 23 in January, is announcing his retirement from competition this winter, just prior to the Olympic debut of halfpipe skiing. His first role as a judge will take place at X Games Aspen from Jan. 23-26. XGames.com spoke to Perkins about why he decided to end his competitive career now and what he's got planned for the future.
XGames.com: How did last winter go for you?
Tucker Perkins: Last year went as well as could be expected. My offseason training was non-existent due to ACL surgery and complication with scar tissue build-up. My goal for last season was to just ski and compete as much as possible and make finals in all of the competitions. My season was again cut short at X Games Tignes due to a dislocated shoulder, which I had to have repaired. I tore the labrum, rotator cuff and a partial bicep tendon tear.
Why decide to end your competitive career now?
Several factors led to my retirement. After having shoulder surgery in March and aggressively rehabbing it throughout the summer in Park City, Utah, I came home in New Hampshire to train on my ramp. I learned all of the new tricks that I was planning on using to compete with this year. I took a step back to reflect and, after weeks of agonizing on the idea, ultimately I decided I would retire.
The risk versus the reward was not there for me anymore. After seeing major events such as various Dew Tour stops and European X Games fall off the map, I wondered which direction the sport was headed and what other opportunities lie ahead. It's easy to get your head stuck in 'the cycle.' I think it's important to continually reflect and take a step back to look at what you're doing and where you're headed.
What about the Olympics? You didn't want to stay competing at least through this season to try to make the Olympic team?
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought about retiring before the Olympics. I have been competing in this sport for a long time and have loved every minute of it. I have been pushing extra hard ever since the announcement of the inclusion of freeskiing into the Olympics in April 2011. Many of us had been eagerly awaiting this opportunity for years while watching snowboarding take all of the glory.
I truly believe in what the Olympics stand for, and I'm frequently amazed at the amount of work and dedication people put toward their Olympic dreams. I decided that I wanted to focus that same drive and passion into other areas of my life that would be more sustainable and rewarding for me.
It has taken me almost three years to get my body back to 100 percent from injuries obtained in the sport and I want to keep my health permanently. At 22 years old, I feel very fortunate to leave the sport on my own terms and pursue other opportunities that may not be there in the future.
You're planning to be a judge at X Games Aspen. What appeals to you about judging?
Yes, I will be judging at X Games this year. I feel like it's the least I can do for a sport that I love and has given me so much. I am really thrilled to see what all the guys and girls have been working on this season in preparation for the big year. As athletes, we are always so critical of the judging, so I am most excited about taking my perspective fresh off of competing and bring it right to the judges' booth to judge the riders fairly. It will be a different view from the bottom of the course but I am confident in my abilities to identify a good run.
What do you think will be the hardest part of being a judge?
Everyone is getting so good that it's hard to make those tough calls. Most riders have the technical tricks and amplitude, so it really comes down to the little things: holding grabs a split second longer and landing high in the transition.
What's next for you after this?
I am very fortunate to have been presented with options to pursue in several different fields and industries including companies that I have been investing in over the past few years. I want to take my time and discuss options that are available to me.