Early halfpipe practices raise concerns for riders; adjustments to be made
Get ready to fall in love with snowboard halfpipe all over again as the best riders in the world of snowboard halfpipe have converged in Sochi, Russia’s Rosa Khutor Extreme Park to take a ride in front of the world and remind viewers everywhere how awesome their high-flying acrobatics really are.
With a few days of halfpipe practice behind them, these athletes from all corners of the earth have had the chance to take to the next pipe that will not only catapult them into the air but also the televisions of fans and intrigued viewers everywhere. However, the story around the flat-bottom is that it's left much to be desired with the athletes.
The question is, will this halfpipe come full circle in time for the big show?
Despite the current conditions of the pipe, there is still time for it to get dialed into perfection, and with the athletes providing feedback each day, it can only get better.
For most riders these conditions were of little surprise following last year’s test event taking place in abnormally warm conditions that even included a bit of rain on one day, but for those that didn’t come out this has certainly opened their eyes.
Still, optimism seems strong.
The brother/sister combo of Taylor (left) and Arielle (right) Gold.
“I came here with some expectation that this wasn’t going to be quite up to par, this is a little [worse] than I expected,” said Taylor Gold, one of two Gold siblings that will be riding halfpipe for Team USA. Gold went on to express a sense of acceptance that things are never perfect and there is still plenty of time for perfection. “It’s whether or not they fix it up. Usually at these contests, even though it is bad for the training, they usually get it pretty good for the actual contest.”
Gold’s sister Arielle was a little more prepared for this pipe as she did attend last year’s test event and was therefore aware of what was to come. Although she ultimately finished 11th in the final, Gold was the top qualifier in the first round of that contest - showing that he she can still excel in these conditions.
“The pipe was completely different [Saturday night]. It was icy. This is closer to what it was like [at last year’s test event]. It was soft and it was warm, so it’s comparable to how it was last season,” recapped Arielle. Still, similar to her brother, Arielle expressed an understanding that this is just the result of having limited days of training on this pipe so far. “It’s still early. It’s only the second cut, so hopefully it will keep getting better. I have high hopes it will keep getting better as they get more feedback. For now, we just have to try and make the most of it.”
Trust that change is coming is what will keep the spirits high around the pipe, and depending on who you ask and how it is worded, most riders relayed their confidence that positive changes are still to come.
Danny Davis is never afraid to speak his mind.
“I’m sure it will get better,” said Danny Davis who is fresh off of a win at X Games the weeks prior to traveling to Sochi. Davis knows there is time for tweaks, but as to the current state, “it’s super bumpy. The flat-bottom is just terrible, but it is what it is. We are just going to have to ride it and it will be the same for everybody.”
Davis continued to express his concerns for the pipe’s present posture but wrapped up with his outlook for the final event.
“It just sucks that practice isn’t much of a practice when the pipe isn’t really that great. You have to figure out how to ride it instead of just doing your thing,” said Davis before looking to the days to come. “Guys are doing the tricks. So, it’s happening. Some of them are forcing themselves to do them [now]. I’m sure they will do them in the contest... Hopefully it will get better.”
Standing next to Davis at the bottom of the pipe was his friend Ben Bright - the older brother and coach of 2010 halfpipe gold medalist Torah Bright.
In the words of Bright, simply put, “the build crew does not match the caliber of athlete[s] riding it.”
Davis echoed those sentiments in a comment to Yahoo!, saying in part, "The IOC probably didn't want to pay the right guys to do it."
An understandable statement coming for the motherland of Russia as the majority of halfpipes built around the world are cut from the famed crew known as Snow Park Technologies (SPT). However, it seems for the Olympics, SPT has not been a part of any conversation.
Shaun White's been practicing as well, as he prepares to defend his back-to-back gold medals.
Bright’s sister Torah was also on site riding in the second training session. She will be fighting to defend her gold medal as well as working towards a podium in snowboard cross. Torah has already competed this week in slopestyle, placing seventh in the final.
“I think it is the same deal as slopestyle. We are the best in the biz’ here and the level of build just does not match the rider,” said Torah. “That’s what happens when you don’t have the best in the world building these things.”
Torah Bright is ready to defend her 2010 gold medal in halfpipe.
While the riders are making their feedback known, the organizers are certainly listening. Monday's practice session was delayed so that course workers could make adjustments and improvements to the halfpipe.
Torah capped her statement with an optimistic sentiment, saying that regardless of how things pan out, "The Olympics will go on and we will put on a great show for the world — no matter what."
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