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US Grand Prix Freeskiing 2013: Stars to Watch in Saturday's Slopestyle Finals

PARK CITY, UT - OCTOBER 01:  Freestyle Skier Bobby Brown poses for a portrait during the USOC Media Summit ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on October 1, 2013 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2013

The 2013 U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix reaches its conclusion on Saturday night with the men's and women's slopestyle.

It's an appropriate way to end the competition as slopestyle has quickly become one of skiing's most popular events. The discipline has gained enough of a following to have earned a spot at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the first time slopestyle has ever been featured at the Winter Olympics.

For those unaware of what slopestyle is, CNN's Tom McGowan explains:

Slopestyle is a freestyle skiing discipline that sees competitors tackle a variety of obstacles, such as jumps and rails, as they descend a downhill course.

Rather than being ranked by time, skiers are judged on the variety and difficulty of the tricks they perform as they traverse the obstacles.

On Saturday night, you'll likely see plenty of stars destined to feature in Sochi. Among the 24 finalists who will feature, these four stand out.

 

Keri Herman

Keri Herman is the United States' best chance to take home gold in Sochi. The 31-year-old was the first American woman to win a World Cup title in slopestyle when she did so in Argentina in 2012. She also won gold at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain in January and has four silvers from Winter X Games.

Suffice it to say, Herman will be one of the favorites on Saturday. She's got the results and the experience to reign supreme at Copper Mountain.

It would be huge to win and take that momentum into Russia.

 

Grete Eliassen

COPPER MOUNTAIN, CO - DECEMBER 20:  Grete Eliassen in action during qualifying for the women's FIS Slopestyle Ski World Cup at the U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing Grand Prix on December 20, 2013 in Copper Mountain, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Get
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

One of the biggest threats to Herman will be Grete Eliassen.

The 27-year-old dominated the halfpipe at the Winter X Games before moving onto slopestyle. She's so far failed to carry over the same kind of results she had in halfpipe, winning a silver and two bronze medals between 2009-11. Eliassen also placed third in slopestyle at the World Ski Championships in 2013.

Reading Eliassen's story is inspiring. This is somebody who's been skiing professionally since the age of 17, and worked hard to become one of the best female slopestyle skiers. It would be great to see her segue a strong performance on Saturday into a medal in what will likely be her only Olympics appearance.

 

Bobby Brown

COPPER MOUNTAIN, CO - JANUARY 10:  Bobby Brown of the USA slides a rail during qualification for the FIS Freestyle Ski Slope Style World Cup on January 10, 2013 in Copper Mountain, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Among the Americans who could bring home gold in men's slopestyle, Bobby Brown will receive plenty of consideration. The 22-year-old has established himself as one of the guys to beat in both slopestyle and big air, winning gold in each discipline at the Winter X Games.

Brown is one of the most unique skiers you're gonna see. There is almost nothing he's unwilling to try in the air, highlighted by his successful triple cork attempt.

Even if Brown doesn't win on Saturday, he'll be a lot of fun to watch.

 

Tom Wallisch

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 29:  Freestyle skiier Tom Wallisch participates in a demo during the USOC 100 Days Out 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Celebration at Times Square on October 29, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for USOC)
D Dipasupil/Getty Images

One of the top contenders in men's slopestyle will be Tom Wallisch. He won gold at the 2013 World Ski Championships and also has a gold medal from the 2012 Winter X Games.

Much like Brown, Wallisch has built a strong following from his electrifying runs on the slopes. No matter what the result of the final is, Wallisch will give fans their money's worth.

The 26-year-old has come a long way from where he was at the start of the year. Wallisch suffered an injury in January. While that could've doomed his season, he went on to win in Voss and could cap off the year with a gold at Copper Mountain.

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