Snowboarders offer differing opinions on slopestyle course
With snowboard slopestyle making its official debut into the Olympic program here in Sochi, all eyes have been paying close attention to the new sport and what it can add to the Games in the form of fresh talent, high stakes and excitement.
“I think it is awesome that we get to showcase another incredible part of snowboarding; slopestyle,” said Australian Torah Bright who will be attempting snowboard history by competing in three disciplines including snowboard cross and halfpipe where she is the defending gold medalist.
Embedded video_content_type: Torah Bright cruises to slopestyle finals
However, the real talk surrounding the new event has been the feedback regarding the first-ever course build. “The only sad thing is that no one’s really happy with the build of the jumps. That can’t be changed now but that’s okay. We are going to do our best and hopefully our best makes people want to come back and watch us do it again,” said Bright.
Throughout the first few days, athletes from every country have been very vocal regarding the course build speaking to everything from its large stature and it’s unique layout. Not to mention, the resulting number of injuries sustained by many riders during the initial days.
Following the kick-off qualifying event for slopestyle was the chance to get feedback once and for all on the course as it stands for those competing on it.
“It felt amazing today! Today was even better than yesterday, which I said was the best day,” said American rider Sage Kotsenburg who tends to focus his efforts on the style aspect when riding in such events. “All the snow is setting up. It’s getting soft in there. All the changes have been made that are necessary to make it a world-class course. I wouldn’t change a thing now. It is definitely one of the best courses I have hit all year.”
Kotsenburg was not rewarded one of the eight spots moving directly into the final following his performance in the qualification round but will have the opportunity to make up for it during Saturday’s semifinal where he will fight for one of the final four spots in the final.
Another American, Karly Shorr, had a similar sentiment saying, “The course has gotten better every single day. They have taken all of our input and they listened. It is definitely the biggest course I have hit all season but it is probably the best course I have hit all season. It is really fun. (Laughs) It is big though.”
Shorr landed herself a spot in her respective final which will take place on Sunday.
Norway’s Silje Norendal, who recently beat women’s snowboard slopestyle gold medal favorite Jamie Anderson at X Games, echoed that statement saying, “definitely today was a lot better. I think the only concern that I had going into today was that I did not get a lot of practice. Today was really good but we just had a lot more speed on it than we had the last few days, so it was just difficult to adjust that fast because we only got four runs before qualifiers.”
Still there have a few other riders who have expressed confusion with the negative complaints whatsoever, such as Mark McMorris who is the gold medal favorite for the men’s event.
“I’ve always been able to get my tricks done on it. No problems for me.”
McMorris ran into some trouble on his first run during qualification but cleaned up on his second go. Still, McMorris has also found himself in the position to ride during Saturday’s semifinal due to an ultimately low-scoring run.
Embedded video_content_type: Mark McMorris takes another tumble
McMorris’ compatriots Max Parrot, who recently beat McMorris during X Games just days before the Sochi Games, and Sebastien Toutant, aka Seb Toots, all seemed to be on a similar page with regard to build of the course from day one. This may be due to the fact that each of these riders had the pleasure of training on a Sochi replica course built at Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada.
“I think it has been good. The jumps are not what we are used to hitting because the takeoffs are really long, so you have to play with the speed a little bit, but I have really nothing to say wrong with the course,” said Toutant who earned a spot in the final. “It is really safe, it has some good airtime on the jumps, the rails are sliding really well and it’s been fun!”
Parrot’s insight to the many injuries accumulating early in the week offers an explanation that many may have overlooked.
“The course is just perfect. There is nothing critical to say about it. I’ve been fine the whole time since day one. I don’t think the course is dangerous. It’s an extreme sport and I think you just have to adjust yourself to how the jumps are built. I just guess there are a lot of injuries because this is the Olympics and everyone wants a gold so they are just pushing their limits too hard. My thoughts, ” said Parrot following his top score from his qualification heat that advanced him directly to the final.
Embedded video_content_type: Max Parrot lands triple cork, qualifies first in slopestyle
Sven Thorgren of Sweden, who also earned a spot to advance past the semifinal and directly into Saturday’s final, assures that the changes have been minor each day and the course was never a concern for him.
“It’s not been big changes, just small feedback that we’ve been giving to the park builders and they have made a few things better, but the course was good from the beginning I think,” said Thorgren. “I’ve seen a lot of complaints in the newspaper but I don’t understand it because it’s a good course.”
Regardless of whom you talk to, there is no question that each day the course has undergone maintenance following riders meeting with the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park build crews. Large or small, changes have been made. Whether or not they will ultimately alter the outcome of anyone’s individual run remains nearly impossible to measure.
The competition starts back up Saturday with men's semifinals and finals.