Double duty: snowboard crossover athletes
In recent years, snowboarding competitions have become a breeding ground for creating hybrid athletes. More and more snowboarders are giving themselves the opportunity to compete in more than one discipline and with the recent addition of slopestyle into the Olympics, riders are looking to make history by winning double gold in Sochi. The challenges of doing just that for any competitor, as the pool of talent standing in their way is immense, is the additional training and back-to-back competitions. Reaching one’s dream has never been so exhausting.
The most notable athlete attempting to compete in two sports is Shaun White. The two-time Olympic gold medalist used the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships in Breckenridge, Colo., as his first stop to qualify for two disciplines for Sochi, showcasing his abilities in halfpipe and testing his abilities in slopestyle; the latter he used to compete and conquer, but nowadays has some catching up to do.
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White has admitted that competing in both disciplines will be a challenge. As he gets older, his competition is getting younger and better. In the halfpipe White will have to contend with 15-year-old Japanese phenom, Ayumu Hirano, Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov, as well as his own teammates, Scotty Lago and Louie Vito. Vito, in particular, has admitted to being in the best shape of his life.
On the slopestyle side, White will have the dynamic duo from Canada to overcome. Mark McMorris, who won the men’s slopestyle event at the 2012 Dew Tour, and his teammate Sebastien Toutant, aka Seb Toots, who finished fourth in Breckenridge last year. White will also be challenged by his own teammate, Chas Guldemond, who’s become a fixture on podiums, including last year’s Dew Tour where he placed second.
White's treating the Olympic qualifying events as a coming out party for him in the slopestyle, to show what he's "been working on and see what everyone else is working on... definitely trying to put down some triple [corks] because that is kind of what eluded me last season," said White.
Perhaps the most versatile crossover athlete is Australia’s Torah Bright. For her, three is the magic number. Not only has she already qualified for halfpipe – in which she won gold in Vancouver after suffering a concussion – and slopestyle to represent her country, but the 26-year-old is also attempting to qualify for snowboard cross.
When asked why she became a crossover athlete, a proposal brought forth by her coach – her brother, Ben – she said, embracing the embodiment of the sport, “because I love snowboarding.”
For Bright, competing in multiple disciplines is a “journey,” one she wants to share, along with the joy for snowboarding that she has.
Exhaustion is a challenge that Bright has acknowledged, however, saying “the joy I have right now I feel is the only thing making it possible that goes with the time and travel that goes into it.”
When it comes to contests, Finland’s Peetu Piiroinen has been described as an “absolute machine,” probably because he’s known for riding every type of competition – from big air and slopestyle to quarterpipe and superpipe. Though last year’s Dew Tour results weren’t that great he did compete in three events – Big Air, Slopestyle and Superpipe – which speaks volumes about his passion and dedication to progressing his sport. This is probably why the 25-year-old has become the most successful rider of all-time on the World Snowboard Tour.
Last spring, 18-year-old Serena Shaw came to Breckenridge to compete in the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association National Championships at Copper Mountain. Shaw came in second. The last time she competed in both at a FIS event – Sun Valley in March 2013 – she won both events, the second time she’s done that.
Whether it’s two events, or even three, the world of snowboarding is blessed with athletes who want to compete and show their true love and passion for their sport. Pulling double duty is going to be exhausting for the riders, but exhilarating for the fans.
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