Men's slopestyle: Big jumps expected but riders hope style counts too
Snowboarders competing in the men's slopestyle competition at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games plan to throw down some big moves in the final round on Saturday, with X Games champion Parrot (CAN) promising a "spectacular" trick as the battle heats up for the debut slopestyle gold medal.
Several of the top riders said they hoped that the absence of two-time halfpipe gold medallist Shaun White (USA) would not diminish the value of their performances.
"I hope we don't just end up with a guy who wins but everybody says, 'but Shaun wasn't there'. That would be sad I think," said two-time Olympian Staale Sandbech (NOR), who finished first in his heat in the qualifying round on Thursday. "Shaun is really good in the pipe; he's really good on the slope - but he's not the top rider in slope."
White made a surprise announcement on Wednesday that he had decided not to compete in slopestyle in order to concentrate on trying for a third straight gold medal in halfpipe. White won the halfpipe at the Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games but he had expressed concerns about the condition and difficulty of the slopestyle course, calling it "intimidating". He said he decided to skip the event - which is making its Olympic Winter Games debut in Sochi - to avoid hurting himself and to focus on defending his halfpipe title.
Parrot criticised White for his decision and suggested the USA snowboarder was just scared to compete. Parrot, who won the X Games last month - another event from which White pulled out at the last minute - said after winning the qualifying heat on Thursday that he was disappointed he would not have a chance to beat White and show the world he was better at slopestyle.
Unlike White, and several of the other riders, Parrot said he really liked the course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park because it gives him a chance to throw big tricks, like the triple cork (three off-axis flips with multiple rotations) he landed solidly during qualifications.
"I think the course is awesome, the crowd is awesome," Parrot said, predicting that several riders might try some triple flips on Saturday. "I've got something more spectacular to show on Saturday. It's not a secret but I don't want to say anything before these runs."
Some of the riders said it was important not just to throw out big tricks like triples but also to show style on the slopestyle course. The runs - which consist of a section of three rails and park features and then three jumps - are judged on tricks and their difficulty, but also on the overall flow of the performance. Some judges focus more on tricks than style.
"I'm not going to do a run (with a lot of tricks) just because that's what they want to see," said Kotsenburg (USA), who is known for his unique style of riding, after training on Friday.
The men compete in semifinals and finals on Saturday. The top four athletes from each of two heats in the qualification round have moved directly to the final, but the others must take part in the semifinals on Saturday morning. Only four riders from the semifinal will continue to the final.
Here is the start list for the semis (6:30 CET).
One who will miss out the semis is Austria's Adrian Krainer after catching his snowboard on the third and last jump of the course and landing hard, injuring both heels and gashing his chin.
Also x-rays revealed no broken bones Krainer's heels are unfortunately too bruised to be able to compete.