Freestyle Skiing shines at Sochi
Sochi 2014 was something of a coming-out party for Freestyle Skiing, with consistently entertaining competitions and a progressive, youthful vibe providing highlight after highlight for fans old and young around the world.
The ladies' and men's ski slopestyle and ski halfpipe competitions were the four high-profile events newly added to the Olympic programme while moguls and aerials have been Olympic events since 1992 and 1994. Ski Cross was added to the programme in Vancouver 2010.
There was something for everyone, with new formats in the so-called classical freestyle skiing events, and on the other end of the spectrum with competitions for alpine competitors on freestyle course and snowboard-related events with halfpipe and slopestyle.
It was a full house of spectators that were constantly entertained with the amazing skills and performances by all of the athletes. The competitors were there to show their best.
With the newly added Olympic events, four athletes became the first ever Olympic Champions in history:
- Ski slopestyle Dara Howell (CAN), Joss Christensen (USA)
- Ski halfpipe Maddie Bowman (USA), David Wise (USA)
The incredible podium sweeps by the U.S. men's slopestyle and the French ski cross teams proved to be two of the Games' biggest stories. In the men's ski slopestyle event, it was dark horse Joss Christensen who was able to rise to the occasion and outshone his higher-profile countrymen Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper to claim gold.
In ski cross, charismatic Jean Frederic Chapuis, took gold with Jonathan Midol and Arnaud Bovolenta claiming silver and bronze for the first podiums of their careers.
In the ladies’ moguls competition, the sister act of Justine, Chloe, and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe all competed against each other with Justine taking gold and Chloe silver over powerful US skier and defending Olympic Champion Hannah Kearney.
The men’s aerials competition saw Belarus upset favourite Chinese athletes in both the ladies' and men's competitions. On the ladies' side, it was veteran jumper Alla Tsuper (BLR) ending her career on the highest of highs with the gold medal. Favourite Xu Mengtao (CHN) and Lydia Lassila (AUS) were both unable to land their super final jumps, and had to settle for silver and bronze respectively.
In the men's competition, it was Anton Kushnir (BLR) taking gold with the best jump of his life in a stacked super final. David Morris claimed Australia's first men's aerials medal after a long run of ladies' success, while Jia Zongyang scored a bronze for China. Kushnir's win maintained a streak of five Olympic Winter Games in which a Belarusian man has won an aerials medal, carrying on the legacy of his teammates Alexei Grishin and Dmitri Dashinski,
With the addition of four new medal events, a record number of 276 athletes competed in Sochi and probably the youngest average age in Olympic Freestyle Skiing history.
From a sporting perspective, Anton Kushnir landed a back double-full, full, double-full air that earned him a score of 134.50 in aerials, the highest in any round in Sochi and in any Olympic Games to date. Kushnir's win maintained a streak of five Olympic Winter Games in which a Belarusian man has won an aerials medal.
In the moguls competitions, for the first time, a single nation took the top two spots in both the men's and ladies' events at a Games since France performed the feat in 1992. Next to the Dufour-Lapointe sisters scoring gold and silver, it was Alex Bilodeau who defended his Olympic gold from Vancouver 2010 by besting his top rival and teammate Mikael Kingsbury. With his winning performance, Bilodeau also became the first Freestyle Skiing athlete to successfully defend gold.
Best venue moments
While the French sweep was the clear highlight of an incredible men's ski cross race, the moment that will be truly remembered came in the quarter finals, when Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE), Jouni Pellinen (FIN) and Egor Korotkov (RUS) all crashed simultaneously after the final jump of an awed crowd. The three athletes slid across the finish line on their sides, with Korotkov reaching out an arm to claim the heat in one of the most dramatic photo finishes of all time.