Just 20 days left to qualify and earn quotas for Sochi 2014

31 December 2013 20:09
The Sochi 2014 Hare mascot
The Sochi 2014 Hare mascot -
GEPA Pictures

In a process where the real life drama of winter sport takes the form of a prime time TV reality show à la the X-Factor, The Voice, Survivor, or so many others, the competition to establish the best freestyle skiers in the world to attend the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games has been under way for the past 18 months.

Some 700 skiers presently on the World Cup tour will be whittled down to just 282 Olympians, with between 25 and 30 skiers each on the men's and ladies' sides distributed between the moguls, aerials, ski cross, ski halfpipe, and ski slopestyle events at the Games. Then those top athletes, through a series of qualification rounds and final heats, will be ranked according to performance, and three men and three ladies in each event will earn themselves a spot on the podium in Sochi. On each podium, one athlete will wear the greatest prize in sports - an Olympic gold medal.

On New Year's Eve, there will be just 20 more days until the quotas are distributed for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. January 19, 2014 is the qualification cut-off, and at the end of that day all of the World Cup points awarded since July 1, 2012, along with results from the 2013 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships, will be totalled together for each World Cup participating athlete. From the combination of those results, 282 quota spots will be distributed to the national Olympic committees and the national ski associations.

Those 282 spots for freestyle skiing are distributed among the 10 competitions to be held in Rosa Khutor (RUS). For each nation, there is a maximum team size of 26 competitors, with a maximum gender allocation of 14 athletes. In each event, there is a maximum entry of four athletes per gender.

The process to earn the quota spots has been staged on a global scale, with over 100 competitions being held in 18 nations at 25 ski resorts on 4 continents.

After every week of World Cup competitions, all of the World Cup points are recalculated and reallocated for every participating competitor, and the ‘Olympic Quota simulation - Summary of Quota allocation’ is prepared and posted on the FIS website. This report tracks all the different events and provides an overview of the distribution of the quota spots during the qualification period. This can be reviewed at the following link:

Summary of Quota allocation

Presently, there are a record 29 nations that have athletes counted on the list of qualified competitors. It is a truly global list of nations, with continental distribution of competitors from North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Oceania.

This 18 month process has been designed to select the best-of-the-best freestyle skiers ever assembled, and bring them all together at one place and at one time in Rosa Khutor, from February 7- 23, 2014. At each designated event through this process, World Cup points are distributed to the top 30 placing athletes, where 1st place is given 100 points and 30th receives one point.

In the sort of reality game show aspect of the whole thing, all eligible World Cup skiers have been seeking to remain healthy enough and competitive enough to continue to battle week-in and week-out to earn the World Cup points needed to establish their positions before the January 19 deadline that will see so many of them 'voted off the island.'

In some cases, as with the smaller teams, focus is placed on one event, and individual athletes who have been groomed strictly to win their Olympic berth for their nation in that event will have enough points within the criteria of their national Olympic committee to be considered already selected.

However, it's quite a different case when considering one of the many larger teams that participate in more than one, several, or all of the Olympic freestyle skiing events. Those teams have many qualified competitors and must allocate the quotas upon the potential to earn medals, not just to participate.

National Olympic Committees have differing qualification standards, which in some cases are much stricter than the basic FIS standards of World Cup points and FIS point standards. Some teams will only consider points earned during the 2013-14 season up to January 19th, so that only the athletes who have performed well in the competitions before the New Year or who will do so in the next three weeks really stand a chance.

Making things tougher, these top nations may have many competitors that are trying to make the Olympic team in any one event, and perhaps several of these competitors are ranked in the top 20 of the world. From this, strong inter-team rivalries can be developed, and just making the Olympic start list can be considered an achievement in itself.

Meanwhile, other teams have pre-selected competitors based upon athlete performances in the World Championships, or competitions held in the home nation such as national championships, or they have awarded Olympic team spots to athletes who have earned a certain amount of World Cup podiums or top-10 finishes. Other smaller nations, limited in their number of competitors, may have already selected their athletes who will get a chance to participate.

Freestyle skiing is a tough discipline, and mistakes in performances can at times lead to injuries. Sometimes these injuries end Olympic dreams for the injured while presenting an opportunity for others to step up and claim an Olympic team spot. Nothing is guaranteed until the nations announce their Olympic rosters after January 20th.

There are over 600 competitors that have earned World Cup points so far in this qualification period. More than half of those athletes will not be selected. For the lucky few who are, however, the biggest stage of them all awaits at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

To see where an individual athlete sits in the Cup standings, please follow the link HERE. (Search settings currently adjusted to men's SX, but all events and genders are easily accessable).