Snowboard is the newest discipline on the Winter Games programme, having first been held in Nagano in 1998, when giant slalom and halfpipe events were contested. The parallel giant slalom, which involves head-to-head racing, replaced the giant slalom in 2002, with snowboard cross being added to the programme in 2006. Sochi 2014, meanwhile, will see slopestyle and parallel slalom events make their first appearances at the Games.
Slopestyle will see athletes descend a course consisting of rails, jibs, hips and a variety of jumps, combining big airs and technical tricks into one run. They will then be scored on overall impression, which takes into account execution, technical difficulty, style, variety and their use of the course features. Parallel slalom, meanwhile, will see two riders at a time race down the same slope on two parallel courses, outlined with gates and triangular flags, blue on the left course and red on the right course.
Athletes to watch in Sochi
Following a record sixth consecutive title at the Winter X Games in 2013, all eyes will be on Shaun White to see if the American can complete a hat-trick of Olympic gold medals in Sochi, where he will be challenged by Vancouver 2010 bronze medallist Scotty Lago.
As slopestyle makes its Olympic debut at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, the event is likely to see stiff competition between 2013 world champion Roope Tonteri, of Finland, Japan’s 2013 World Cup champion Yuki Kadono, and Norway’s Ståle Sandbech. Australia’s Alex Pullin is the reigning World Cup and world champion in snowboard cross, with Austrian Markus Schairer also among the medal favourites.
In the women’s events, the USA’s halfpipe star Kelly Clark, who won Olympic gold in 2002 and bronze in 2010, will be confident of adding to her medal tally. In snowboard cross, Canada’s 2006 bronze medallist Dominique Maltais will be in the hunt for the Olympic title, following her World Cup success in 2013.
The last two men’s Olympic halfpipe titles have been won by American Shaun White, who wowed the crowd in Vancouver in 2010, scoring an Olympic record 48.4 points out of 50 with a superb run that included a Double McTwist 1260 (a double-flip, three-and-a-half spin), which no one else had ever landed in competition. Switzerland’s Philipp Schoch and the USA’s Seth Wescott are the only other athletes to have won two snowboarding gold medals at the Winter Games. Schoch won the Olympic parallel giant slalom titles in 2002 and 2006, while Wescott won snowboard cross gold in 2006 and 2010 – the only times the event has been held so far.