Snowboarding is a relatively new addition to the Olympics; it was first included in the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. The sport was created in the United States in the 1960s and gained popularity over the following decades. National and international championships did not begin until the early 1980s, and the sport was officially accepted into the International Ski Federation in 1994.
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi feature a snowboarding program that includes both old and new events. The returning events are halfpipe, snowboard cross and parallel giant slalom. The two new events that will be debuting this year are parallel slalom and slopestyle.
The parallel slalom is similar to the parallel giant slalom. Two snowboarders race each other down parallel courses while staying within flags. The only difference is that the flags are within tighter space constraints in this new event. The winner is the fastest snowboarder who stays within the boundaries; the gold medal goes to the undefeated snowboarder.
The slopestyle event is an X Games favorite. It involves snowboarders performing tricks as they travel down a mountainous terrain with rails and jumps. Competitors will be judged on technique, precision, and difficulty.
The United States has seven Olympic gold, and 22 overall, medals in snowboarding, which is more than any other country. This year’s team has 23 snowboarders, both veterans and novices, hoping to add to these totals.
Shaun White, America’s “Flying Tomato,” is back again for his third Winter Games. He has two Olympic gold medals in halfpipe to his name, and will be attempting his third consecutive gold in the event — a feat that has never been accomplished by an American man. White is the favorite to win the halfpipe gold. He was also considered a contender for the slopestyle gold medal, but had to pull out of the event after injuring his wrist during practice.
Another name generating buzz is halfpipe snowboarder Greg Bretz. He recently beat out Shaun White for first place in the snowboard superpipe final at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships in December. This will be Bretz’s second Olympic appearance.
For the women’s halfpipe, Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter will be returning to compete for Team USA. Clark has competed in four Winter Olympics, winning a gold in Salt Lake City (2002) and a bronze in Vancouver (2010). She is the favorite to win the halfpipe gold in Sochi. Teter will be competing in her third Winter Games, and has won gold in Turin (2006) and silver in Vancouver. First-time Olympian Kaitlyn Farrington will also be competing in the halfpipe. She has gained attention for recently defeating Kelly Clark in the final Olympic qualifier event.
The women’s slopestyle Olympians are all competing in their first Winter Games. The frontrunner is Jamie Anderson, who is a four-time X Games champion. Team USA’s youngest snowboarder will also be competing in this event. Sixteen-year-old Ty Walker has made a name for herself by placing fourth at the Copper Grand Prix — the highest rank among all American women in slopestyle for that event.
Familiar names for snowboard cross include Nate Holland and Lindsey Jacobellis. This will be the third Olympic appearance for both snowboarders. Holland has never medalled, only ranking fourth in the Vancouver Games. Jacobellis also did not medal in Vancouver, but had won the silver in Turin, as well as seven gold X Games medals and 26 World Cup golds.
Team USA’s sole Olympian for men’s parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom will be Justin Reiter, who is a contender for the gold.
By: Jennifer Joniak
A part of the SJC Talon Winter Olympics 2014 Series
Men’s Halfpipe: Sadly, Shaun White was dethroned this year on the halfpipe and that’s all we’re going to say about that. Iouri Podladtchikov or “I-Pod” (SUI), Ayumu Hirano (JPN), Taku Hiraoka (JPN)
Men’s Slopestyle: Sage Kotsenburg (USA), Staale Sandbech (NOR), Mark McMorris (CAN)
Women’s Halfpipe: Newcomers Kaitlyn Farrington win gold medal defeating veterans Torah Bright (AUS) and Kelly Clark (USA)
Women’s Slopestyle: Jamie Anderson (USA), Enni Rukajarvi (FIN), Jenny Jones (GBR)