Freestyle skiing is one of the newest disciplines on the Olympic programme, having made its debut in 1992, when only the moguls were contested. Aerials became an official medal event at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, while ski cross was added to the programme in 2010.
Sochi 2014 will see two new events join the freestyle skiing programme, with ski slopestyle and ski halfpipe adding to the excitement at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Ski halfpipe will see one competitor at a time travel down the halfpipe, performing an array of big airs, flips, twists and other tricks. The athletes will then be judged out of a total possible score of 100, taking into account technical difficulty, style, flow, variation and execution. Slopestyle, meanwhile, features a course consisting of rails, jibs, hips and a variety of jumps, which allow skiers to combine big air and technical tricks into one run. Athletes will be scored on execution, difficulty of line, landing and their use of the course.
Athletes to watch in Sochi
Canada’s reigning moguls World Cup champion Mikaël Kingsbury is likely to challenge defending Olympic champion and compatriot Alexandre Bilodeau for the men’s gold medal, while the USA’s reigning Olympic gold medallist Hannah Kearney will be favourite for the women’s moguls title.
In the aerials, China’s Jia Zongyang and Liu Zhongqing and Australia’s David Morris will all be challenging for gold in the men’s event, while the women’s title is likely to be contested by China’s Xu Mengtao and Li Nana, as well as Australia’s defending champion Lydia Lassila.
Great Britain’s James Woods is the reigning World Cup champion in the men’s slopestyle and will be aiming to win his country’s first ever Winter Olympic skiing medal in Sochi, while 23-year-old American David Wise will be hoping to emulate snowboarding compatriot Shaun White’s Olympic success when he takes to the ski halfpipe. In the women’s events, Canada’s reigning slopestyle world champion Kaya Turski looks set to battle it out with the USA’s World Cup champion Keri Herman, while Switzerland’s two-time world champion Virginie Faivre is the woman to beat in the halfpipe.
In the unpredictable and thrilling ski cross event, Switzerland’s reigning World Cup and world champion Fanny Smith will be among the favourites for women’s gold, although France’s Ophélie David will be looking to make amends for crashing out at the quarter-finals in Vancouver in 2010. In the men’s event, Switzerland’s Alex Fiva is the reigning World Cup champion, while France’s Jean-Frédéric Chapuis is the current world champion.
As of yet, no freestyle skier has won more than one gold medal at the Winter Games, meaning no athlete has been able to successfully defend their Olympic title. Norway’s moguls star Kari Traa has won more medals than any other freestyle skier at the Games, having won three medals (one gold, one silver, one bronze) in three successive Games.
Australia’s Dale Begg-Smith and Janne Lahtela of Finland are the most successful male freestyle skiers, with one gold and one silver medal each in the moguls. Canada’s Jennifer Heil also has one gold and one silver in the moguls, while Alisa Camplin, who was the first Australian woman to win gold at the Winter Games, has one gold and one bronze in the aerials, along with Japan’s Tae Satoya and Norway’s Stine Lise Hattestad.