TGR caught America's Olympic hopefuls training for Sochi last spring at a private training camp at Mammoth Mountain.
This weekend in Park City, 11 of a 26 possible Sochi Olympic spots for the five disciplines of the U.S. Freestyle and Freeskiing Teams – halfpipe, slopestyle, aerials, moguls, and ski cross – were picked at the conclusion of the Park City stop of the Grand Prix. The eleven spots were to be “locked” spots determined by the weekend’s competition results, and while the announcement included some unsurprising inclusions, with Nick Goepper, Maddie Bowman, Devin Logan, and David Wise having performed so consistently well recently their naming was expected, nine of the eleven spots were decided only after Saturday’s halfpipe and slopestyle competitions. After O.A.R., a quasi-jam band that's a favorite among college fraternities who can't hire more expensive bands, played their set to packed Park City and Sundance crowds, the emcees announced an American lineup that reflected some astounding personal stories and big wins as well as some truly tough disappointments. As well, the final discretionary spots for both the slopestyle and halfpipe teams were announced just today.
Angeli VanLaanen needed one more podium to qualify for the Olympics, and her second-place finish in Saturday’s halfpipe final, rounded up with some confidently smooth airs, edged her over the bubble into qualifying territory. A vet relative to her peers, she has also been battling Lyme disease for years, so that plane ticket to Sochi will feel extra special in her hand.
Park City local Joss Christensen moved from the sidelines of Olympic inclusion into consideration for a discretionary spot on the slopestyle team after his slopestyle win on Saturday, and was officially added as the final member of the slopestyle team today when he was awarded a discretionary spot.
Aaron Blunck and Lyman Currier, both from Colorado and both on the fresher end of the spectrum in America’s deep and extremely talented pipe team, secured their spots for Sochi with an injured Torin Yater-Wallace on the sidelines. Blunck fell on his first finals run in the pipe and with everything riding on a perfect final run, pulled it all together for a last-chance score of 92.00, while Currier, even more of an unknown entity, now follows his father’s Olympic legacy (he made the US alpine team for the 1972 Sapporo Olympics) to Sochi.
Despite being sidelined with an injury succumed during the Breckenridge stop of the Dew Tour that left him with two broken ribs and a collapsed lung, Torin Yater-Wallace still secured the coaches' discretionary spots on the men's halfpipe team, no doubt thanks to his incredibly consistent performances in the pipe in the past few seasons.
And two relative unknowns in the slope world, 15-year-old Maggie Voisin and 16-year-old Julia Krass, became a bit more known just today when they were awarded two discretionary spots on the women's slopestyle team. A New Hampshire native, Julia won the Grand Prix slope style with a host of confident rail and jump tricks, including two 450s out of the upper rail section and a cork 900 on the final booter.
Tom Wallisch’s 4th place finish at Saturday’s slopestyle finals left him out of automatic qualification for Sochi, meaning he was fighting for one of the team’s discretionary spots with an extensive contest-winning pedigree that unfortunately hadn't shined as bright recently. A style god, Wallisch is your average park skier’s favorite park jock, so it came as a big disappointment to the core skiing community today to learn that he was not given a discretionary spot on the men's slope team.
Simon Dumont, a ferocious competitor whose years of pipe battles with Tanner Hall helped elevate the ski halfpipe game to an Olympic level, tore his ACL on Friday night, adding another injury to a list he’d already been fighting only 24 hours before his final opportunity to make the team. A fighter like few others, Dumont still returned to the pipe Saturday night – sans ACL – and threw down a run that still would have won the X Games not too long ago. Unrelenting until the end, we’ll be sad the veteran won’t be dropping in at Sochi next month.
-Associate Editor Ryan Dunfee
2014 U.S. Olympic Ski Slopestyle and Halfpipe Nominations
Men’s Halfpipe: David Wise, Aaron Blunck, Lyman Currier, Torin Yater-Wallace
Women’s Halfpipe: Maddie Bowman, Brita Sigourney, Angeli VanLaanen, Annalisa Drew
Men’s Slopestyle: Nick Goepper, Bobby Brown, Gus Kenworthy, Joss Christensen
Women’s Slopestyle: Devin Logan, Keri Herman, Julia Krass, Maggie Voisin
The U.S. snowboarding roster for Sochi is a strange blend of Bob Costa’s poster children and riders who happened to land on the team while out having a good time. Repeat offenders like Shaun White, Kelly Clark, Hannah Teter, Seth Wescott, and Lindsey Jacobellis continue their long run as top contenders—for both the Olympics and for future Wheaties boxes.
And although these recognizable faces are exactly what NBC and non-endemic sponsors crave in making snowboarding digestible as a spectator sport, the U.S. Snowboarding Team is not without it’s fair share of excitement. And surprisingly, some of this excitement even comes from one of the least exciting riders on the roster.
By landing a slot on the slopestyle team, Shaun White proves he’s a force with which to reckon. Although his style in the park—boot grabs and all—garners plenty of criticism, he can still throw down with the best of them. And when it comes to slopestyle, White manages to be both a dark horse and the most overhyped rider to drop into the park at Sochi. That’s a tough burden to bear.
Luckily, Danny Davis serves as a counterpoint to White’s calculated approach to the Olympics. You may recall that en route to the Vancouver Olympics, only a few riders served as legitimate threats to White in the pipe: Kevin Pearce and Danny Davis. Yet neither made it to the Olympics, as Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury while training for the Games and Davis broke his back while celebrating a pipe victory leading up to Vancouver.
Davis has always oozed style—and now more than ever. While other riders seem to formulate their runs with a calculator in hand, he has always approached his pipe riding with fresh eyes. His switch method at this weekend’s Mammoth Grand Prix is just a small example of his creativity. Through the years, competition runs have become more and more similar. Yet Davis continues to buck this trend. Rather than finding inspiration in gymnastics, Davis seems to turn to snowboarding’s roots. And for this, snowboarders everywhere should be grateful for what he brings to the table.
At this point, we’ll be honest—we’re just skimming the surface of the U.S. roster. There’s a tremendous amount of talent on the slope, boardercross, and pipe teams. Hungry riders like Greg Bretz, Jamie Anderson, Jonathan Cheever, Sage Kotsenburg, and Chas Guldemond have been working their tails off to earn a spot to the Olympics. And while Shaun White will undoubtedly dominate the spotlight heading up to the Games, we’re equally stoked to see how all of these riders will fare. We wish them the best of luck as they gear up for Sochi—and Bob Costas.
-Managing Editor Mike Sudmeier
2014 U.S. Olympic Snowboard Slopestyle and Halfpipe Nominations*
Men’s Halfpipe: Greg Bretz, Danny Davis, Taylor Gold, Shaun White
Women’s Halfpipe: Kelly Clark, Kaitlyn Farrington, Arielle Gold, Hannah Teter
Men’s Slopestyle: Sage Kotsenburg, Chas Guldemond, Shaun White
Women’s Slopestyle: Jamie Anderson, Ty Walker
*still pending coaches' discretionary picks
We'd also like to give a shoutout to Sarah Burke, who died two years ago this Monday during a halfpipe training accident and whose leadership and fortitude helped get slopestyle and ski halfpipe into the Sochi Olympics in immeasurable ways.