PyeongChang 2018 OWG preview: Slopestyle
Over the past years, the level of riding has undergone a significant progression, a development which could be watched during the training sessions at Bokwang Phoenix Park, where Germany based company Schneestern put together a beauty of a course again.
Basically, this year's course is a further development of the playground which was designed for the Olympic test event two years ago.
This year, the course boasts six features, with three multifaceted rail/jib/jump/butter features at the top of the course leading into the lower section of three multifaceted, boundary-pushing jumps, with the whole package coming together to encourage creativity and individuality in each athletes' run.
And with athletes having been working hard to deliver best at the sport's pinnacle event and to grab some of that coveted hardware men and women will go for on February 11 and 12, respectively – with both finals kicking off at 10:00 LOC (2:00 CET) – the slopestyle competitions will for sure an event you don't want to miss.
Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games slopestyle results
Gold – Jamie Anderson (USA)
Silver – Enni Rukajarvi (FIN)
Bronze – Jenny Jones (GBR)
Gold – Sage Kotsenburg (USA)
Silver – Stale Sandbech (NOR)
Bronze – Mark McMorris (CAN)
Especially as a strong and deep field has descended on South Korea to battle for the second ever Olympic title.
Although there has been a huge progression boost over the past Olympic circle, all Sochi medallists who are attending the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea – only Kotsenburg and Jones will not compete – are once again among the odds-on favourites.
Especially in the women's event, where Jamie Anderson (USA) could become the first female snowboarder to defend an Olympic title.
The 27-year-old took it easy during the World Cup season focusing on her national trials where she was the first to grab a spot in the slopestyle team.
Anderson also had a great showing at the 2018 X Games where the most decorated rider in the event's slopestyle history faced a strong competition but walked away with a slopestyle Gold and big air Bronze to pile up her medal count to 15 in total – of which five are wins.
And don't forget, Anderson also won the Olympic Test Event back in 2016.
But riders like Enni Rukajarvi (FIN), Silje Norendal (NOR) or Anna Gasser (AUT), arguably the currently best female kicker hitter are keen to put their hands on a medal, too.
In addition, Japan's very own Reira Iwabuchi as well as Miyabi Onitsuka, the 2015 World Champion and 2017 Bronze medallist have the trick bag that it takes to jump on the podium, too. And don't forget 2017 World Championships Gold and Silver medallists Laurie Blouin (CAN) and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL) who both could once again be a surprising factor.
Over in the men's event, the number of riders who should be on the to watch out for list is even bigger.
While Canada's top guns like Mark McMorris, Sebastien Toutant and Max Parrot or Norwegian Viking Stale Sandbech and reigning World Champion Seppe Smits, Belgium's Flag bearer, are back to add another chapter of domination to their biography, there are some kids who would like to steal the show from them.
Markus Kleveland, a spinning wonder from Dombas, Norway has not only won the World Cup season's opener in Cardrona last September but backed his last December's Big Air air win in Germany with a Big Air Silver and Slopestyle Gold at the X Games last month.
Another kid coming in hot to the Olympic Winter Games is Red Gerard. The only 17-years-old was not only the best qualifier at the X Games slopestyle event but also won his career's second World Cup in Aspen Snowmass mid of January edging off Hiraoki Kunitake (JPN) to a surprising second rank finish.
Talking about Kunitake, one of the youngest athletes ever to compete in the Olympics, could make himself the biggest gift by landing on the podium just one day after turning 16.