Bethel, Maine, native Troy Murphy of the United States trains in preparation for the men's moguls competition of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Credit: Kin Cheung | AP

Motocross used to be one of Troy Murphy’s biggest passions. That was until a ride with Jeff Yingling changed his life.

Murphy had the chance to ride with Yingling, then the head freestyle coach of the Gould Academy Competition Program in Bethel. After watching Murphy ride, Yingling suggested that he try freestyle skiing. Murphy decided to give the sport a shot that winter and he instantly fell in love with it.

Murphy, who was born in Bethel, is getting ready to make his first-ever appearance in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“I unofficially knew I was on the team after our last World Cup (event) in (Mont-)Tremblant, (Quebec) but it wasn’t until the day after I returned home to (Utah) that I got the official call,” Murphy said in an email. “I kind of had a feeling I had made it for a while, so my reaction wasn’t anything too crazy — just a lot of relief after I finally knew I was going to Korea for sure.”

Qualifying in the men’s moguls competition begins Friday night and continues with a second session on the afternoon of Feb. 12.

In 2014, Murphy, in his first season with the U.S. Ski Team, was within grasp of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic moguls team after recording two fifth-place finishes in nine starts, but he fell just short.

It gave Murphy, who wasn’t expecting to even contend for a spot on the Olympic team that year, confidence and the drive to qualify for the games in 2018. And he did just that.

But Murphy’s path to the Olympics wasn’t always smooth.

Throughout the 2016 season, he endured a series of injuries that limited his time on the slopes.

“2016 was a super tough year,” he said. “It started off with me collapsing my lung just before the World Cup opener, and then I had to drop out of the tour again a few weeks later with a back injury. After (the winter of 2016) was over, I told myself that I would totally put it behind me, which I did, and the following year ended up being my best to date.”

Murphy posted six top-10 finishes on the World Cup tour in the 2017 season.

Murphy, 25, has struggled as of late in World Cup events. In January, he competed in four World Cup events, posting two 14th-place finishes and two finishes outside the top 30.

Despite the slight decrease in Murphy’s production, he said he is feeling “awesome” heading into the games.

“I’m skiing the best I ever have,” he said. “I got my first podium earlier this season, and I feel like everything is stacking up to be successful. Nerves haven’t played much of a role yet. Overall, I’m just focused on skiing my best and controlling my controllables on the hill. And off the hill, I look forward to taking in the experience.”

Before leaving for South Korea, Murphy had a six-day training camp at Deer Valley Resort in Utah.

“The camp was amazing,” he said. “We had a fresh mogul course all to ourselves and it was super productive. We tried to mimic the schedule we’ll see here in Korea as best we could so that should pay off.”

When Murphy hits the slopes in PyeongChang, he’ll have his family, friends and girlfriend there to support him.

“It’s amazing that they were able to come,” he said. “This will be my dad’s first time out of North America, so I feel really proud that I was able to get him overseas. They are going to have an amazing time. I’m very excited for them, and I’m so pumped that they will get to watch me compete on the largest stage in sports. They’ve sacrificed so much to get me here, so I feel that it’s only right that they get to enjoy it as well.”

Colton Wood, a native of Richmond, Virginia, is a freelance journalist and a student at Michigan State University. He has covered several NFL, NBA and NHL games, along with numerous NASCAR weekends and various collegiate sports for multiple publications, including ESPN, USA Hockey, The Washington Times and Florida Today.

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