Slopestyle snowboarding will be hitting the big time in Sochi as the discipline makes its Olympic debut as one of two new snowboarding events alongside parallel slalom. However, it has not been a smooth beginning.
Medal threat Torstein Horgmo of Norway broke his collarbone in a training crash and was knocked out of the Olympics (he later said he blames himself, not the challenging Rosa Khutor course for the injury). Another contender, two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White of the U.S., jammed his wrist Tuesday and then bowed out this morning to focus solely on attaining his third consecutive Olympic gold in the halfpipe.
His training incident occurred shortly before a female rider from Finland sustained a concussion after she fell and hit her head at the end of a run.
Changes have since been made to the course, which had no test event prior to the Olympics. The ones who hit the podium in Sochi will likely be the quickest learners.
Tomorrow – Men’s qualification, 1 a.m. ET; Women’s qualification, 4 a.m. ET
Saturday – Men’s semifinal, 12:30 a.m. ET; Men’s final, 3:45 a.m. ET
Sunday – Women’s semifinal, 1:30 a.m. ET; Women’s final, 4:15 a.m. ET
Tomorrow – Men’s/women’s, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Saturday – Men’s final, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Sunday – Women’s final, 7 p.m. ET, NBC
With White gone, the Americans will feature Sage Kotsenburg, Chas Guldemond, and Ryan Stassel. Kotsenburg won the last of five Olympic qualifier events and both he and Guldemond are former X Games medalists. As for Stassel, he also took a victory during the qualifier series.
Leading the U.S. women is a potential gold medalist in Jamie Anderson. Regarded as one of the best female slopestyle riders out there, she enters the Games after winning four of five Olympic qualifiers. 16-year-old Ty Walker is the youngest U.S. snowboarder at Sochi but has already developed a solid reputation but is dealing with multiple injuries of her own and concedes that she’s looking ahead to Sunday’s semifinal for her chance to qualify into the final. Jessika Jenson and Karly Shorr each earned two podiums in the qualifiers.
Horgmo’s injury and White’s decision to focus on halfpipe may have cleared the way for a Canadian sweep of the men’s podium. Mark McMorris was the gold medal favorite but isn’t 100 percent as he deals with a fractured rib. If that slows him down, fellow countrymen Max Parrot (the new X Games champ) and Sebastien “Seb Toots” Toutant are talented enough to win.
Another Canadian, 2013 world champion Spencer O’Brien, should provide a stiff challenge to Anderson for the women’s gold. Also in the hunt are Norway’s Silje Norendal, who beat Anderson for the X Games title last month, and Australia’s Torah Bright, who will also compete in halfpipe and snowboard cross.