The sport of freestyle skiing in the Winter Olympics is taking a bigger role, and sports fans should be grateful because of it.
For decades, the Winter Games were all about speed on the slopes, with alpine skiing dominating the landscape up until the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, when freestyle skiing was introduced as a demonstration sport.
Since then, it's been slowly expanding, highlighted by the big growth during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Back in 2011, the International Olympic Committee decided to add halfpipe skiing and slopestyle skiing to the schedule for 2014—a fruitful decision that's led to some high-flying action so far in Sochi. Coupled with the inclusion of the ski cross event in 2010 at the Vancouver Winter Games, freestyle skiing has become a much bigger part of the Olympics recently.
For Americans, arguably the highlight of the Olympics so far has been the clean podium sweep in the men's slopestyle event, as Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper placed 1-2-3.
The event showcased why freestyle skiing has become so popular in recent decades, as it combines the technique and creativity on a grand scale. Seeing the skiers fly down the mountain with such big air can be mesmerizing.
Ski jumping has long been a part of the Olympics, but there's a raw element to freestyle skiing that makes it much more entertaining for viewers. Watching Olympians launch themselves more than 100 meters in the air on skis is cool and all, but that can get repetitive at times.
The IOC deserves credit for not staying rigid and evolving with the sport of skiing, which has undergone a massive transformation since the 1960s and 70s. It keeps the Olympics fun and fresh while also showcasing the unique talents of an entirely different breed of skier. It makes for good TV, too.
With more than a week left for competition, there is still plenty of freestyle skiing left. Americans have a great shot to bring home more medals, as the U.S. has a strong group of gold-caliber level skiers in the men's and women's halfpipe events. Visit Sochi2014.com for schedules and more information.
As the sport continues to grow, it will be interesting to see if they incorporate any other events into the mix. For now, the IOC should be commended for exploring a new avenue in the evolving sport of freestyle skiing.
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