The American queen of snowboard slopestyle and big air
Jamie Anderson won the inaugural snowboard slopestyle event at Sochi 2014 and then, four years later at PyeongChang 2018, retained the title to remain the only female Olympic champion in her discipline, and the first woman ever to win two gold medals in snowboarding. But her achievements at her second Winter Games did not end there: of all the male and female snowboard athletes who competed in both slopestyle and the new big air event, she was the only rider to mount the podium twice, taking the big air silver medal behind Austria's Anna Gasser.
An early start
Jamie Anderson grew up in South Lake Tahoe, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. She was the fifth child in a family of eight children, and it was her two older sisters, Joanie and Stacie, who introduced her to snowboarding and inspired her passion for the sport. Jamie fell in love with snowboarding and competed in her first events aged 9 after convincing her mother that she was old enough. She completed her schooling at home, which allowed her to strap on her board and hit the local slopes on a daily basis. She specialises in the tricks and rails of slopestyle, and she quickly developed the mastery needed to secure her first podium finish – she placed third in slopestyle at the X Games in Aspen in 2006, at the age of 15, making her the youngest ever medallist in the competition, supplanting the great Shaun White – if only by just a few days!
Queen of the X Games
Jamie went on to become the most decorated slopestyle specialist (among both men and women) at the Winter X Games, achieving 14 podium finishes by 2018, including five titles. She started out on the FIS World Cup circuit competing in the halfpipe in Cardrona (New Zealand) in August 2008, and won her first slopestyle events in the 2012-2013 season. By this point, the discipline (along with ski slopestyle) had been added to the Olympic programme by the IOC, and was set to make its debut at Sochi 2014. Jamie was selected to represent her country in the inaugural slopestyle event at Rosa Khutor, where, given her reputation, she would compete as one of the favourites.
On 6 February 2014, she took second place in her qualifying heat, advancing directly to the final, which took place three days later. The day before, her compatriot Sage Kotsenburg took the men's title. "I was freaking out !" related Jamie, a lover of yoga who wore “mantra” beads and listened to “I can” by rapper NAS at Rosa Khutor. And she could! "There was a lot of stress up there," she reveals. "Even though it’s just another competition, the stage and the outreach that this event connects to across the whole world is out of control. All of us just wanted to do our best. I was so happy and thankful to put down a run!" Not the first, but the awe-inspiring second run, which included two 720s (double rotation) executed with enormous grace, and was characterised by fluidity, soft landings and plenty of style. Other competitors attempted riskier tricks, but Jamie's run earned her a superb score of 95.25 for a comfortable win.
"The key is not to take things too seriously, to strike a balance between competition and the spirit of snowboarding. At the top I felt nauseous and I felt sick. I thought, ‘Let’s go through what I’m more consistent with,’ and it paid off,” said the slopestyle star, who will forever be the first female Olympic gold medallist in the discipline.
Staying at the top
After becoming Olympic champion at the age of 23, Jamie continued her dominance at the top level, on both the American professional and World Cup circuits. She was equally dominant in both slopestyle and big air. In 2016, she won the small Crystal Globes for both disciplines, and, as the icing on the cake, took the big Crystal Globe for overall freestyle! In the same season, on 21 February, the American won on the Bokwang Phoenix Snow Park slopestyle course in PyeongChang. At this Olympic test event, she used her three runs to try out various combinations of tricks on the course, each one more awe-inspiring than the last, making excellent use of the opportunity to prepare for her next visit! Jamie won the small World Cup Crystal Globe for slopestyle again at the end of the 2016-2017 season and finished in the top five for big air, before going on to begin the Olympic season with a slopestyle victory in Cardrona (New Zealand) on 4 September 2017. And, with the PyeongChang Games a month away, she won her fifth X Games slopestyle title in Aspen, as well as the bronze medal for big air.
Positive thoughts and a stunning performance at PyeongChang 2018
When she arrived in PyeongChang to defend her title and attempt to win another in the new discipline on the programme, Jamie explained: "By the time I got here and stepped down on Korean soil I was like, 'Good vibes only, no matter what.' I'm here, I'm going to live in every moment and embrace it: the nerves, the fear, all of it that comes." On 12 February at the Phoenix Snow Park, Jamie showed the world why she was tipped to take the title, despite the gusts of wind that delayed the start of the slopestyle final by over an hour. The American's nerves of steel and technical mastery allowed her to destroy the competition in her first run, recording an impressive score of 83.00. However, the double Olympic champion had a few wobbles in the middle of the course. "I was going to do a cab nine, but when I left the jump I knew I didn’t have enough speed and that I had to open out a bit to make the landing," she said afterwards. Nobody managed to better her score in the second run. Jamie took the gold comfortably: silver went to Canada's Laurie Blouin (76.33) and bronze to Finland's Enni Rukjärvi (75.38). And so, Jamie Anderson became the first woman to win two gold medals in snowboarding, and remains the only female champion in the discipline.
Silver in big air to add to her medal haul!
The majority of the male and female slopestyle competitors also participated in the big air competition on the huge ramp in Alpensia. The women's event took place on 22 February. But Jamie was the only athlete to win a medal in both events. In her first run, she executed a magnificent frontside 1080 mute (triple rotation with a forward-facing take-off and a grab on the edge of the board between the bindings), landed perfectly, smiled widely, and scored 90.00, putting her in the lead. Only the big favourite, Austria's Anna Gasser, dropping in last on the third and final run, managed to better Jamie, with a score of 96.00. "My second medal feels awesome!" said the American. "With the level of riding, literally it was a 50-50 per cent chance that I was going to put down my more difficult trick, so I was just so happy to come here and do what I wanted to do. We have great conditions and everyone was able to ride their best, so it feels rewarding. It just feels good! The girls are awesome and I’m just happy to be up there with them!"
New adventures ahead
Very involved in her community, Jamie has created a foundation in her name, to help young people without the means to practise snowboarding. She is also a member of the Protect Our Winters (POW) alliance, which fights against climate change. In addition, in April 2018, she participated in the programme Dancing with the Stars, partnering with professional dancer Artem Chigvinstev. But unlike in her snowboarding career, this experience quickly ended in elimination. "I was out of my comfort zone. But the universe was looking out for me, and I am extremely happy to return to the mountains, that is where my heart is," she wrote. Her sporting adventure continues!