Olympic Freestyle Skiing 2014: Preview and Predictions for Men's Halfpipe
No Olympic event can put a viewer's heart in his throat quite like the halfpipe. The snowboarders have thrilled the audience with daredevil tricks and death-defying air since the Nagano Games in 1998.
Now, for the first time, the freestyle skiers will get their chance to do the same in Sochi.
The athletes are judged on technical precision, style and difficulty. And of course, none of those points matters if the execution is flawed. All skiers will get two runs to dazzle the judges, and the participants with the best single-run scores from the qualifying round will move onto the finals to complete for a medal.
Read on for a look at one of the newest and most exciting additions to the Olympic roster.
Schedule, TV and Live Stream Info
How Did We Get Here?
Since the decision was made in 2011 to add the ski halfpipe to the Olympic lineup for the Sochi Games, the focus on and popularity of the extreme sport have grown. One of the pinnacle events at the Winter X Games, the sport has been drawing more participants and media coverage now that an Olympic gold is on the line.
At the 2014 X Games in Aspen, American David Wise took home an impressive third consecutive gold medal in the halfpipe and is ready for that to translate into Olympic hardware.
In 2013, Sochi held a World Cup test event in the ski halfpipe. Torin Yater-Wallace of Team USA won the event with an impressive round on the daunting course.
The event will be contested over the same course that the snowboarders used for their competition. Those athletes voiced complaints about the safety and condition of the course, as Hannah Teter told USA Today: "It is a little dangerous. I saw more people fall today than I have all season. It's just dangerous because it's crappy, you know?"
How is the pipe?
The warm weather at the Sochi Games is not doing the halfpipe or the slopes any favors. The halfpipe was criticized by the snowboarders after their competition, and there does not seem to be much improvement since then. On Sunday, British halfpipe athlete Rowan Cheshire was injured during training, and her status for the remainder of the Games is questionable. The course is treacherous and may be the greatest adversary that these athletes face.
Will David Wise deliver?
Hailed as the gold-medal favorite going into the Sochi Games, the reigning X Games champion will try to carve his place in history as the first gold medalist of this event at the Olympics. He is the one to beat and will try to become the freestyle skiing equivalent of Shaun White.
Will Team USA dominate again?
The United States swept the podium in the slopestyle competition. Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper took home the medals and set the bar high for their teammates in the halfpipe competition.
Athletes to Watch
All eyes will be on David Wise, as the three-time X Games champion tries to add some Olympic hardware to his collection. The 23-year-old Nevada native is regarded as one of the most technically precise and stylish skiers in the sport and has the strength to get incredible aerials as well. He will be the top threat on Team USA.
The 18-year-old skier for Team USA is one of the biggest risk-takers and therefore one of the most exciting performers in the sport. His winter has been riddled with injuries, and after a particularly nasty spill in December, his Olympic status went from favorable to questionable. Nevertheless, he made it to Sochi in one piece and is sure to put on a show.
So far, Canada has topped the medal standings with six in freestyle skiing, three of which have been gold. The 27-year-old will make his Olympic debut and may be the strongest threat in the Canadian arsenal in this event. He came to Sochi with some new moves up his sleeve, telling Sharp:
For the Olympics I have two new tricks that I’ve been working on. I’m going to do two double-flips in my run, starting with a left side double-cork twelve and my finishing trick is a switch alley-oop double nine. That’s the run that I want to compete, that I know I can podium with in Sochi.
Who Are the Sleepers?
Representing France, the 24-year-old is no stranger to top international competition and has been a force to be reckoned with at the X Games for years. An ambassador for the Youth Olympic Games, the popular athlete has a chance to steal the show in Sochi.
The 19-year-old is part of a stacked Team USA, and while he has been overshadowed by his more accomplished teammates, he is as talented and fearless as any competitor. With a perfect trip and a little luck, he could be a long-shot medal contender.
Complete Medal Predictions
While David Wise is the overwhelming favorite for the gold medal, one of the most intriguing factors about the halfpipe competition is its sheer unpredictability. In such a dangerous sport, there is no such thing as a sure thing, and the competition will be fierce.
Gold: David Wise (United States)
Silver: Torin Yater-Wallace (United States)
Bronze: Kevin Rolland (France)