While snowboarding may still be relatively new to the Winter Olympics, it has attracted a wide audience in the United States behind impressive aerial displays, marquee superstars and an overall excitement factor that few other sports bring to the table.
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are quickly approaching, and the official U.S. snowboarding team still has to finish its qualifying events for half-pipe and slopestyle at the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix. The events have already kicked off, but here is a look at the schedule that will take place in three different locations.
|U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix Schedule|
|Copper Mountain, CO||Dec. 16-22, 2013|
|Breckenridge, CO||Jan. 6-12, 2014|
|Mammoth Mountain, CA||Jan. 14-19, 2014|
While the events are exciting in and of themselves, the real stories at qualifying events are the names that emerge. Let’s dig into a few to keep an eye on before the Olympics officially kick off in Sochi.
It doesn’t get any bigger than Shaun White when it comes to Americans recognizing athletes heading into the Winter Olympics.
The snowboarding superstar is plastered across television sets throughout the country via commercials, SportsCenter performances and amazing displays of athleticism. He is a major reason why snowboarding will be so popular when the Olympics actually kick off.
However, White is an aged veteran by snowboarding standards. The drive to compete in both the slopestyle and half-pipe in what will be his third Olympics has taken its toll. White shared how he has been feeling with Nick Zaccardi and NBC Sports:
I used to go up and ride all day long. I just don’t do it anymore. I really show up, I do a couple runs and that’s the best I’m going to be all day, and I slowly get worse.
White will look to rack up enough International Ski Federation points to qualify for the slopestyle event during the Grand Prix. Assuming he does that, White will be the main draw for both the half-pipe and slopestyle in the Olympics.
White may draw all the headlines, but Kelly Clark has won more snowboarding events than any competitor in history on the male or female side.
Fortunately for Clark, she will certainly be a member of the U.S. Olympic team and will look to put on a show during the Grand Prix. She won the gold medal in half-pipe in the 2002 Winter Olympics and the bronze medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics and could be on her way to a third medal in 2014.
She has a variety of tricks that she deploys, including the 1080, which will thrill fans once the half-pipe in Sochi begins.
If White doesn’t take home the gold in the slopestyle event, Charles “Chas” Guldemond may be the one who beats him out.
Guldemond counts two X-Games medals, three U.S. Grand Prix victories and a World Snowboarding Tour slopestyle championship title to his name and is a future superstar in the making in the snowboarding world.
Look for American teammates Guldemond and White to square off in Sochi with the gold medal on the line.