2014 Olympic Preview: Freestyle Sports

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The Olympics are many times seen as a pretentious stuffy version of sports and that can usually be related to the image of the IOC. It is not always the most exciting sporting event for some people because it is not a big part of sports culture in a lot of ways. There is also the issue that the Olympics have generally kept their old school mentality about a lot of things. They seem to have an attitude about other sports that are not in the Olympics as less than the Olympic sports. It is an attitude that most people are not too happy about because they see it as being an organization that considers itself above everything else. That can turn a lot of people off of the Olympics and although the athletes are rarely like this it is the organization that many cannot get alongside especially when exciting sports continue to get passed up to be included in the Olympics. That happens more often in the Summer Olympics that has less spots for new sports and must eliminate other long-standing sports to find room. Because the summer games have gone on for much longer more sports have made the program and remain in the program. That is not entirely true for the Winter Olympics as they are fairly young, compared to the summer version, and still have room for more sports. As the winter games continue to add new sports to their program they start to try to figure out exactly what way they want to go. As of right now that way is to bring more of a focus on freestyle sports in the Olympics. This year there will be plenty to watch for in this set of sports as they are some of the most fun sports to watch. These sports are full of high-flying athletes that jump extreme heights and do amazing tricks with plenty of obstacles in the way. They are the sports that will get people screaming and cheering. Freestyle sports are the future of the Olympics and they continue to grow with more sports being added to this category than to any other category in the Winter Olympics. The addition of women’s ski jumping, slopestyle, skicross, and the ski halfpipe will make this category one of the best to watch in Sochi this year as athletes will come to Russia and look to make an impression with new sports and with older sports to ensure that everyone will be talking about the freestyle sports this year. It will be down to those athletes to make sure of this but if you like high flying action these are the sports to watch in Sochi.

 

Freestyle Skiing

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First Year:
1992 (1988 Demonstration Sport)
Most Medals: USA, 14 (5 Gold)

The first freestyle skiing event was added in 1992 and another one would be added in 1994. This year the growth continues with the addition of Slopestyle, Ski Cross, and Ski Halfpipe. Slopestyle is one of the more modern of the new additions and will be done in the snowboard discipline as well. Skiers take runs down a course laced with big jumps and rails and look to perform big stunts to earn the best score at the end of the run. Ski Cross is a recent addition to the skiing aspect of the sports as it will join the snowboard cross that was added in 2010. It is a race four to six at a time while trying to get down the hill first through the jumps and banked turns. Ski Halfpipe will also make its debut this year in Sochi and will join snowboard halfpipe in the Olympic program. In ski halfpipe skiers take a run through the halfpipe pulling off the biggest and best tricks they can to earn the best scores. These three sports will join the standbys in freestyle skiing, the moguls and the aerials that were the beginning of freestyle skiing. Mogul skiing was the first of the freestyle skiing sports as it would be added in 1992 after being a demonstration sport in 1988. Skiers race down a hill through moguls, small bumps on the course, to two jumps where they pull of big aerial tricks trying to earn a good score that will be paired with their time down the hill to determine the winners. Aerial skiing was the second freestyle skiing event that was added in 1994 winter Olympics and has been a constant ever since. In Aerial skiing athletes have two runs at one massive jump to perform the most difficult stunt they can while trying to land perfectly to earn a great score. Freestyle skiing is entertaining to watch as athletes push everything as far as they can to get the best scores they can and will do the same this year in Sochi as they hope to make a great impression.

 

Who to Watch:
Victor Oehling Norburg (Sweden)
– He is the leader of the World Cup of Ski Cross as he hopes that he can continue his success into the Olympics and earn a medal for Sweden that is not considered a power in the Winter Olympics

Katrin Mueller (Switzerland)
– she has not been a constant athlete at the top of the podium through ski cross but she has been near the top all year and ranks 2nd overall as she hopes to hit her stride at the Olympics and earn the most important medal of them all

Devin Logan (USA)
– A two sport athlete Logan will participate in the Slopestyle and the Halfpipe for skiing and will look to improve on her Silver Medal in the X-Games for Slopestyle to try to earn an Olympic Medal

Lisa Zimmermann (Germany)
– She is a young participant in the Olympics but has looked great winning a Junior World Cup Gold last year and a gold in the latest world cup as she looks to take the gold in one of the newest disciplines in the Olympics

Hanna Kearney (USA)
– She is the defending Olympic champion in the moguls at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic sand his hoping to repeat her performance in Russia as she takes a 2013 Gold medal in the World Cup as she hopes to add to her collection

Canadian Content:
Alexandre Bilodeau (Montreal, QC)
– He forever has a spot in the heart of Canadian Olympic fans as the first Canadian to win a Gold Medal on home soil in 2010 and he has followed it up with being the best mogul skier in the world this year as he hopes for a repeat at the Olympics

Mikhail Kingsbury (Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, QC)
– The rivalry is strong between Kingsbury and Bilodeau as they rank #1 and #2 in the world in the moguls and Kingsbury hopes that the Olympics are the time that he can get past Bilodeau for the gold medal

Dufour-Lapointe Sisters (Montreal, QC)
– it is a great story as Maxime, Justine, and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe will all travel to Russia together as the set of sisters are hoping to sweep the moguls podium this year although Chloe and Justine seem to have the best shot of medalling in Sochi

Kelsey Serwa (Kelowna, BC)
– In the young sport of Ski Cross Serwa is a veteran and a 2011 World Champion but has had some major injuries hurt her chance in the past few years as she hopes to complete her comeback from a knee injury by winning a gold in Sochi

Marielle Thompson (North Vancouver, BC)
– She is currently leading the World Cup of Ski Cross and has consistently been at the top of the pack as she looks to travel to her first Olympics and show that Ski Cross is a Canadian sport that can be dominated by the Canadians

Justin Dorey (Calgary, AB)
– Rounding out the best team in the Canadian Olympic squad Dorey who hopes to take his leading scores in the Halfpipe World Championship into the Olympics to try to add to what could be a great haul in freestyle skiing for the Canadians

 

Ski Jumping

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First Year:
1924
Most Medals: Norway, 29 (9 Gold)

It has been one of the mainstays of the Winter Olympics since the beginning as one of the founding sports. That is not to say that it hasn’t changed over the last few years and one of the biggest changes will happen this year. It hasn’t been until these Olympics that they would get their spot in the Olympics as 2014. It will be a historic Olympics for Ski Jumping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics as these women have more pressure on them trying to show that they belong and trying to be the first ever Women’s Ski Jumping Gold Medalist. The sport itself, whether in men’s or in women’s, is all about technique and making that perfect jump. The distance always matters but without great technique there is no distance. It is a tough thing to do when flying down a large hill to time the push perfectly to set up a long jump. Then when in the air they must keep complete control and stay as straight as possible to ensure that their timed jump is not wasted. Then comes the landing where athletes must make sure they extend just enough to squeeze as much distance out of the jump as they can while making sure they have enough time to make the perfect landing. All of these aspects put together make up a score for each run with only the top scores taking a second run and both scores put together determining the winner in the end. There are three competitions in ski jumping in the Individual Normal Hill, for men and women from a 105 Hill Size, the Individual Large Hill, for men only 140 Hill Size, and a Team Competition, from the Large Hill with the same scoring system as individuals except that the total score of all athletes determines the winner. The Ski Jump is one of the classic winter sports for the Olympics and this year will have a new twist as both men and women will compete to try to put together the perfect technique to earn Olympic Gold.

 

Who to Watch:
Peter Prevc (Slovakia)
– With five first place finishes this year in the World Cup Prevc is the man to beat on the hill as the man standing in second place at the World Cup looks to win his first medal in the Olympics and bring a medal home for Slovakia

Kamil Stoch (Poland)
– When Prevc isn’t winning on the hills it seems to always be Stoch as he has taken recent success into the Olympics as the World Cup leader is looking to win Gold in Sochi and bring it home to Poland

Sara Takanashi (Japan)
– In a fairly new sport Takanashi is a trailblazer as the world record holder and current World cup leader who has the best chance to win the first ever gold medal in the Olympics but anything can happen and she needs to stay focused to make history

Carina Vogt (Germany)
– She is from a more traditional ski jumping country and will hope to continue that tradition in the women’s competition as she sits second place in the World Cup and hopes to add a medal to be on the first podium for women’s ski jumping

Canadian Content:
Taylor Henrich (Calgary, AB)
– Canadian ski jumpers were some of the most fervent voices in support of women’s ski jumper and are now trying to surprise everyone by putting up a medal worthy performance including Henrich who is the highest ranked Canadian in the World cup circuit

Atsuko Tanaka (Calgary, AB)
– Another member of the first ever Canadian women’s ski jumping team Tanaka has already made history but his hoping to put on her best performance ever to earn a medal at Sochi and become a surprise of the games

 

Snowboarding

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First Year:
1998
Most Medals: USA, 19 (7 Gold)

Snowboarding is very much like Freestyle Skiing but the other side of the hill with a number of different disciplines to watch for. It is the much less traditional sport in the Olympics as Snowboarding came about in the 1990s as an alternate to skiing. It has taken off ever since and is now a large part of the Olympics with multiple sports as some of the favorites in the program. Much like freestyle skiing snowboarding will welcome a new sport to the list in Slopestyle while the old list remains the same. Slopestyle will make its debut in the Olympics straight from the X-Games this year and is one of the most anticipated events in the 2014 Olympics. It is the same as the ski slopestyle where athletes take runs down a long slope while trying to do the most difficult stunts on the jumps and rails to earn the best score. Slopestyle will join the list of other snowboard events including a fellow X-Games event in the halfpipe. The halfpipe is again very similar to the ski halfpipe where athletes must take runs through a halfpipe and try to build up the best score by doing the biggest tricks they can. It is not all about the tricks for snowboarding in the Olympics though as there are plenty of races to watch as well. The more traditional races are the slaloms in the Olympics were athletes must race down a hill and weave between gates to earn the best time. In the Parallel Slalom two athletes compete against each other in a head to head race through gates spaced a distance apart while in the Giant Parallel Slalom is the same with gates spaced further apart. The final sport in the list is snowboard cross where four racers line up together and race through a course full of bank turns and jumps with the first across the line winning. Snowboarding in the Olympics is one of the most popular and some of the most watched disciplines in the Olympics and it will be no different this year in Russia.

 

Who to Watch:
Sean White (USA)
– He has been the best snowboarder in the world as an X-Games veteran turned Olympic Gold Medalist will look to try to get another gold this year as he will participate in the halfpipe and the slopestyle events

Patrizia Kummer (Switzerland)
– She is currently the leader at the Parallel Slalom and Parallel Giant Slalom World Championships and his hoping to continue her great season with the ultimate in at the Sochi Olympics to earn her first Olympic medal

Sylvain Dufour (France)
– He is one of the best slalom racers in the world as he sits second in the giant slalom and first in the slalom as he hopes to bring a medal to France as one of the few medal hopefuls from the country

Lindsey Jacobellis (USA)
– She has been one of the most dominant snowboard cross racer in the world but the Olympics has not been her best time as she failed to medal in 2010 and finished second in 2006 as she hopes to get a gold in what could be her last Olympics

Omar Visintin (Italy)
– He is the current leader in the men’s snowboard cross and is hoping that the success through this year will translate into the Olympics as he hopes to win an Olympic Gold medal and unseat the North Americans in the sport

Canadian Content:
Mark McMorris (Regina, SK)
– He has been one of the faces of the Olympics for Team Canada and is considered one of the best snowboarders in the world as the battle between him and Sean Whyte in Slopestyle will make headlines no matter who wins

Dominique Maltais (Petit-Riviére, QC)
– Keeping the tradition of snowboard cross as a North American sport Maltais is currently leading Lindsey Jacobellis in the world cup and will have a battle to win the gold at the Olympics with two of the best racers in the sport

Maëlle Ricker (North Vancouver, BC)
– She is the defending Olympic champion in snowboard cross but while at the X-Games she would suffer a wrist injury and will have surgery before the Olympics as her comeback story could be one of the best for Team Canada as she hopes to repeat

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