PyeongChang 2018 OWG preview: Snowboard Cross
Snowboard cross has celebrated its Olympic debut at the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games and has provided one of the most exciting competitions of the sport's pinnacle event ever since.
The fourth Olympic SBX edition will bring the fifth and sixth snowboard medal decision of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games on 15 (men) and 16 (women) February.
Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games snowboard cross results
Gold – Eva Samkova (CZE)
Silver – Dominique Maltais (CAN)
Bronze – Chloe Trespeuch (FRA)
Gold – Pierre Vaultier (FRA)
Silver – Nikolay Olyunin (RUS)
Bronze – Alex Deibold (USA)
And with the first training runs in the books, the snowboard cross races are promising some thrilling and exciting action again as tons of riders have descended on South Korea who have the skills, the nerves and the equipment and therefore everything it takes to prevail on a course which is arguably one of the biggest and most interesting ones ever been built.
Here is a nice rendering of the course crafted by White Industries Ltd (please note that the left line at the split will be the ski cross line, while the right line off the split will be the one for SBX)
In the women's event, it's World Cup leader Michela Moioli (ITA) coming in hot having the momentum of seven consecutive podium finishes of which four were wins, including the last races at the Feldberg World Cup.
However, as the double event in Germany took place on a course with half the length of the one in Korea, it's more interesting to know that the 22-year-old from Bergamo is also strong on the more demanding course lengths having placed second in the Olympic test event staged in the Bokwang Phoenix Park two years ago.
The current World Cup leader was only beaten by 2014 Olympic Bronze medallist Chloe Trespeuch who is also her strongest pursuer in this season's race for the Crystal Globe with her two teammates Charlotte Bankes and Nelly Moenne Loccoz also ready for their respective first Olympic medal.
But when it comes down to big events, one rider is always within the inner circle of medal contenders: Lindsey Jacobellis (USA) might have had some underperforming results at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics which didn't reflect her skill set missing the big finals both times.
But the five-time World Champion and 2006 Silver medallist is the most experienced rider of the currently fastest girls on tour hoping to tie on to her good early season form when she won two of the first three races.
Talking about fast girls, you also have to take defending champion Eva Samkova into consideration. Especially as the Czech rider has had a perfect return to the World Cup circuit after injuring her shoulder in France.
In addition, she also opted for leaving out the last World Cups prior to the Olympics in order to prepare for the highlight, just like Jacobellis did with the US team.
However, the men from the US might not the odds-on favourites for a medal after they have had quite some struggles during the World Cup season but Nick Baumgartner was third in the test event two years ago and had his form curve going upwards in the past events.
Nevertheless, it's Pierre Vaultier (FRA) who is the one to be chased down the track.
The 29-year-old is not only the defending Olympic Champion but also the reigning World Champion as well as the current World Cup leader who has dominated the recent rounds of the World Cup tour.
He placed second or first in the past five races and is experienced enough to deal with the pressure at a major event having won already everything a boarder cross athlete can win (expect the X Games).
But also the respective second, third and fourth of the world, two-time World Champion Alex Pullin (AUS), Alessandro Haemmerle (AUT) as well as Omar Visintin (ITA) who finished fourth and sixth at the test event, respectively, are also here to put their hands on some bling.
But in a race where six riders go head to head through turns, over huge jumps and through technical roller sections, a lot of unpredictable things can happen which might open the door for a (big) surprise.