Olympic skier has Poulsbo connection

POULSBO — Norman Livers has heard the stories before: How Eric Bergoust would climb onto his parents’ roof in Missoula, Mont., and fling himself to a waiting pair of mattresses before. How Bergoust wanted to be a stuntman, until he and a bunch of friends piled into a car and drove to Calgary to watch the 1988 Winter Olympics, and his plans changed. How Bergoust trained maniacally to become the U.S. World Cup champion in aerial skiing, then earned gold in the Nagano Olympics four years ago.

POULSBO — Norman Livers has heard the stories before: How Eric Bergoust would climb onto his parents’ roof in Missoula, Mont., and fling himself to a waiting pair of mattresses before. How Bergoust wanted to be a stuntman, until he and a bunch of friends piled into a car and drove to Calgary to watch the 1988 Winter Olympics, and his plans changed. How Bergoust trained maniacally to become the U.S. World Cup champion in aerial skiing, then earned gold in the Nagano Olympics four years ago.

Livers, who lives in Poulsbo, has first-hand insights into Bergoust’s career, because he is Bergoust’s great-uncle.

Livers’ nephew, Don, is Bergoust’s father, and Livers gets updates on Bergoust’s career.

Now that Eric Bergoust, 32, is America’s best hope for gold in the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Livers — and many others in Poulsbo — will be watching those events with interest and pride.

“We have high hopes for him this year,” Livers said.

He didn’t start off as a fan of aerial skiing, said Livers, who lived in Eastern Montana for many years but moved to Poulsbo 11 years ago. But he has gotten used to it as Eric’s career has taken off.

“I knew nothing of it, until he (Eric) got into it,” Livers said recently. He’s still amazed by the sport. “It’s amazing how they go up five or six stories, then land upright.”

Livers has only met the Olympic champion a few times. But Livers keeps in touch: “I hear from his dad all the time,” he said.

When he has met Eric, he has liked him.

“He’s a good Christian boy. He’s quiet. He’s pretty much of an individualist, and a tough competitor.”

Livers knows one other thing about the 32-year-old Eric, who will perform on the world’s largest stage next week (Feb. 19): “He’s devoted his entire life to the sport.”

Despite Eric’s focus, which is praised by teammates and coaches, he is generous to other skiers, at least from what Livers has heard.

“He’s a fierce competitor. But there are some good young ones coming up, and he’s been helping them, hoping their future will be as bright as his is,” Livers said.

Livers watched on television as Eric took seventh place in the Olympics at Lillehammer; watched as he took first in Nagano; and will be watching again next month as he goes for another gold medal.