2014 Olympic Skiing: Preview and Predictions for Women's Ski Slopestyle
Get ready to witness history!
Freestyle skiing has gained quite a bit of traction in the last few Winter Games, and Sochi will be the first-ever Winter Olympics to award medals for the women's slopestyle competition.
What is slopestyle?
It's a freestyle event, in both skiing and snowboarding, where the objective is to perform the most difficult aerial tricks while getting the most height off the course. The event rewards variety, rather than doing a single trick repeatedly, and has been a staple of—and one of the most popular events in—the X Games for years.
At Sochi 2014, the first women’s gold, silver and bronze medalists in these events will be crowned. This is your complete preview and predictions guide for the historic women's ski slopestyle competition.
Schedule, TV and Live Stream Info
You're going to need to be a night owl on the East Coast in order to catch the live action of the women's slopestyle qualification and medal rounds. The good news is that they are only separated by 95 minutes, and you'll get a chance to witness history if you do decide to stay up.
1 a.m. ET, Qualifying
4 a.m. ET, Medal Round
Live streams will be available at NBCOlympics.com.
Tape-delayed TV schedules can be found at NBCOlympics.com/TV-Listings.
How Did We Get Here?
It's been a long road.
The 2014 Sochi Games will be the first Winter Olympics to feature a women's slopestyle freestyle skiing event. That's right—a competition long relegated to the X Games has finally become mainstream and burst onto the biggest of international stages.
This event is among the most thrilling you'll get to see in Sochi, combining speed, skill, athleticism and steely nerve in order to perform tricks that will oftentimes require you to pick your jaw up off the floor.
The short answer, then, is the way we got here wasn't easy, but for the athletes who will be attempting to become the first woman to wear that Olympic gold, the road was certainly worth it.
Will It Be a Hit?
Slopestyle has been around for a while now—it can be found in both freestyle skiing and snowboarding—but until its inclusion in the Sochi Games, it was largely consigned to X Games competitions. For fans of the sport, the excitement, daredevil-like stunts and pure athleticism that will be showcased make it a huge addition to the 2014 Games.
But the big question remains: Will it be a hit with the masses, or will slopestyle remain a niche sport?
It's hard to see how people could help being awed by some of the stunts and tricks they'll see over the next few weeks, but in a spectacle built on tradition and pageantry, slopestyle might have a hard time breaking through.
Can Anyone Stop Kaya Turski?
If you've never seen Canadian Kaya Turski perform, drop what you're doing, find your nearest computer and get yourself onto YouTube. This girl can do some things on skis that will make your jaw drop, fall to the floor and scurry away with you chasing after it.
She's already a legend in the world of slopestyle and rarely loses a competition. But she'll be looking to break out in Sochi, capture that first-ever gold medal and become a star to more than just the audience she's been playing to for years.
Do the Americans Have Any Hope?
The United States team, and the event in general, received a huge blow this past week when it was announced that Maggie Voisin, the youngest U.S. Olympian in Sochi, would miss the Games due to an ankle injury.
The 15-year-old from Whitefish, Mont. was injured during training runs on Friday, and her doctors determined that she would not sufficiently heal in time for Tuesday's event.
Without her, the American team is down to Keri Herman—a decorated slopestyle skier who has two silver, but no gold medals in X Games competition—Devin Logan, who captured silver at the 2012 X Games in Aspen and Julia Krass.
A medal is a possibility to the American ladies, but it won't be easy.
Who Are the Sleepers?
The only real answer to this question is: Can anyone beat Kaya Turski? She's the overwhelming favorite to walk away from this event with the gold medal, and it'll take a special performance from one of the other women to deny her that historic medal.
Herman is likely the American women's best shot to reach the podium in this event. She won the 2013 Copper Mountain Grand Prix and has four silver medals in X Games competitions to her name. Two of those came in the United States and two came in Europe, so she's definitely got some experience on an international stage.
Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen
Christiansen is one of the few women who have defeated Turski in a major competition. She unseated her in the slopestyle event at the 2013 X Games held in Aspen, Colo. That alone gives her a major edge over any of her competitors.
Howell, like Turski, is a Canadian with an excellent shot at medaling in this event. She's captured three bronze medals in the X Games, and she came in just behind both Turski and Christiansen in Aspen last year.
Who Is the Favorite to Win Gold?
Kaya Turski is the overwhelming favorite in this event, and with good reason.
The one hitch in her plans could turn out to be her left knee. The ACL in her knee was surgically repaired in late September 2013—the second reconstruction on her left knee and third overall—and it was only thanks to a revolutionary procedure that she was able to get back on skis as fast as she did.
She made her return in January at the U.S. Grand Prix of Freeskiing and placed third—narrowly behind Devin Logan and Dara Howell—showing that she still has what it takes to compete at a high-enough level to win gold in Sochi.
That was her first race back post-surgery, and if it's any indication, she remains the favorite to take home gold in Sochi. After all, she's only going to keep getting stronger and closer to the form that led her to dominate the sport these last several years.
Complete Medal Predictions
This is Kaya Turski's moment. She's worked for it and she's earned it. After dominating the X Games for years, this will be her shining Olympic moment.
Expect her to be pushed hard by a talented field, and especially by rival Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen and compatriot Dara Howell. They'll do enough to join her on the podium, but they'll have to settle for silver and bronze.
Gold: Kaya Turski (CAN)
Silver: Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen (NOR)
Bronze: Dara Howell (CAN)