Huge week for Freestyle underway with Copper Mtn slopestyle and halfpipe
PPER MOUNTAIN, USA – A huge week on the FIS Freestyle tour got underway on Wednesday at Colorado's iconic Copper Mountain with the first World Cup slopestyle and halfpipe action of the winter season in the northern hemisphere, at the FIS Freestyle Copper Mountain World Cup/Visa Grand Prix.
It's been four months since the 2013-14 World Cup season officially started in New Zealand's Cardrona resort with slopestyle and halfpipe events, though those contests feel like a lifetime ago as winter has ratcheted up and the tour has kicked into full swing.
With 230 athletes from 29 nations on hand, there is a huge international field set to take a shot at Copper's famed pipe and park facilities. The best newschoolers in the world have descended on Colorado's towering peaks for a series of events over the course of December that offer critical qualifying opportunities for the Sochi Olympics. With only a month left in the qualifying period, those opportunities are becoming fewer, making every event more important for athletes looking to punch a ticket to their sport's Olympic debut.
There are, however, some notable names who will not be in attendance at Copper, as the list of athletes on the injured reserve has grown exponentially in the past week.
On the men's side, big names include 2013 world championships halfpipe runner-up Torin Yater-Wallace (USA), who had a nasty crash just before finals at the Dew Tour, breaking several ribs and collapsing his lung. Veteran Simon Dumont went down in practice at the same event, suffering a concussion. And young Cyrill Hunziker (SUI) recently announced that a knee injury suffered in October will now require surgery, effectively ending his season.
For the ladies, the news is worse. Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen (NOR) – multiple X-games medalist, winner of August's Cardrona slopestyle, and second overall-ranked SS skier of the 2012-13 World Cup season – tore her ACL training in Aspen last week and is doubtful for the Olympics. Last Wednesday, halfpipe legend Jen Hudak (USA) torn her meniscus and partially tore her ACL in qualifications at the Dew Tour. Ladies' slopestyle world champion Kaya Turski (CAN) is also out as she rehabs from off-season knee surgery.
With the announcement by ladies' halfpipe world champion Virginie Faivre (SUI) that she has is taking time off in the lead-up to Sochi, the list of names not competing looms large. However, the list of names who will be dropping in on the Copper courses is still impressive, as nearly anybody else you can look up in the park and pipe skiers Rolodex will duke it out for one of the 30 men's and 24 ladies' Olympic halfpipe and slopestyle spots available.
Men's halfpipe world champion David Wise (USA) is fresh off a big win at the Breckenridge Dew Tour stop, and is like the man to beat heading into Sochi. World champs bronze medalist Nick Goepper won the first 2013-14 World Cup slopestyle event of the season in Cardrona, and just took the Breck slopestyle event with a broken hand and no poles, so it seems safe to say that he's skiing pretty well right now. Then there's virtuoso Gus Kenworthy looking to make his mark in both the HP and SS events this week and easily capable of doing just that.
For the ladies, Devin Logan (USA) continues to be one of the strongest all-around freeskiers in the world and, like Kenworthy, she will be a threat in both the park and pipe at Copper. Logan dominated the slopestyle and placed sixth in pipe at last week's Dew Tour stop, while her countrywoman Maddie Bowman (USA) took the superpipe win in a contest that was owned by Americans. Expect the host Americans to face some stiff international pressure this week though, as skiers like Dara Howell (CAN) and Ayana Onozuka (JPN) figure to be threats in slopestyle and halfpipe, respectively.
The FIS Freestyle Copper Mountain World Cup/Visa Grand Prix gets underway with men's slopestyle qualifications on Wednesday, followed by men's and ladies' halfpipe qualification on Thursday, ladies' slopestyle qualifications and men's and ladies' halfpipe finals on Friday, and men's and ladies' slopestyle finals on Saturday to finish off the Copper stop.
Men's slopestyle qualification results can be found HERE.
The full schedule can be found HERE.
USSA event page can be viewed HERE.