Halfpipe event preview through the eyes of Mike Riddle
KRASNAYA POLYANA - With all the juicy plot lines that have unfolded in the lead-up to the debut of ski halfpipe at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the cool professionalism with which Mike Riddle of Canada has completed his journey may have been lost in the mix.
He is not coming into the Games hot on the heels of back-to-back instances of a season-threatening collapsed lung, like 18-year-old Torin Yater-Wallace (USA). He will not be dedicating his performance to his toddler daughter, like 23-year-old world champion David Wise (USA). And he does not have his own online TV channel chronicling the on and off-hill adventures of himself and his friends, in the style of Kevin Rolland (FRA).
Riddle simply comes into the competition fit, rested, and riding a string of 12 straight top-10 performances dating back to last season. "I'm feeling really good," he said when asked how things are coming together on the eve of Sochi 2014 competition. "I'm coming off a fourth place in the X Games in a really competitive event. I've actually learned a new trick since then, too."
The 2011 world champion, Riddle was the first athlete selected to represent Canada in ski halfpipe at Sochi 2014, locking down a spot at the end of the 2012/13 season by topping the FIS Freestyle World Cup halfpipe overall rankings. Position secured, in 2013/14 he had the luxury of being able to compete when his body felt good and take a rest when it did not.
"I think there are five people that have winning runs if they land them as good as can be," said Riddle, " Justin Dorey (CAN), he's got a run that if he lands I think he could win. But there's Kevin, David, Torin, Justin, and hopefully myself. If I was a betting man I'd have my money on those guys to be on the podium."
Having seen the worldwide reaction to the performance put on by the ski slopestyle men last Thursday, Riddle realises the impact the finals could have on his sport and the athletes within it.
"It's the Olympics. People are going to step up. Watching slopestyle, watching Joss Christensen (USA) throw down tricks I've never seen him do before, it was so exciting. My heart was going 140 beats a minute just watching that.
"It was exciting, but I'm even more excited to show the world what we've got in the pipe. It's going to be a good show."
Tune in at 5:45 pm (local time) for the qualification runs. The finals will start at 9:30 pm local time!