After being crowned the first ever Olympic women’s snowboard slopestyle champion at Sochi 2014, the USA’s Jamie Anderson now has her sights set on a unique double, when snowboard big air joins the Olympic programme in PyeongChang.
Anderson grew up in South Lake Tahoe, in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. The fifth of eight children, she was introduced to snowboard by older sisters Joanie and Stacie. She fell in love with the sport straight away and, after persuading her mother that she was old enough, took part in her first competition aged nine. Anderson was schooled at home, giving her the time she needed to hone her tricks and skills on the nearby slopes.
Specialising in slopestyle, she was just 15 when she secured her first podium finish – a bronze at the 2006 X Games in Aspen (USA), where she was the youngest of all the medallists, by just a few days from the great Shaun White.
Ruling the X Games
Anderson has since gone on to become the most decorated of all Winter X Games slopestylers, amassing a total of 12 medals (including five golds) by the end of 2017.
She made her FIS World Cup debut in the halfpipe in Cardrona (NZL) in 2008, and won her first slopestyle event in the 2012/13 season. Following the inclusion of the discipline on the Olympic programme for Sochi 2014, Anderson earned selection for the USA team and travelled to Russia as one of the favourites.
An Olympic first
Second in the qualification round at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Anderson battled with her nerves in the final three days later. “I was freaking out,” she later acknowledged. “I was really just trying to stay calm and kind of preserve my energy.
“There was a lot of stress up there,” she added. “[The Olympics] connect with people across the whole world. All of us just wanted to do our best. I was so happy and thankful to put down a run.”
The American held it together to produce a winning run that included a pair of beautifully executed 720s, the high points of a flowing, stylish performance that brought her 95.25 points and a deserved gold medal.
“The key is not to take things too seriously, to strike a balance between competition and the spirit of snowboard,” added Olympic women’s snowboard slopestyle’s first champion, whose decision not to break out more crowd-pleasing tricks paid off: “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.”
Double challenge in PyeongChang
An Olympic champion at 23, the gifted Anderson remained at the top in the years that followed, impressing in both slopestyle and big air on the US professional and World Cup circuits. Heavily involved in her local community, her passion for snowboarding prompted her to set up a foundation to help disadvantaged youngsters get out on the slopes.
According to FIS, the American “has an incredible trick repertoire in the rail sections and is able to send some of the biggest and cleanest spins when hitting the jump lines.” In 2016 she won small crystal globes in the two disciplines, while also claiming the overall crystal globe for freestyle snowboarding.
One of her victories that year came at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic slopestyle test event at Bokwang Phoenix Park, where she produced an increasingly spectacularly array of tricks, spins and jumps on her three runs.
“It’s a great course,” she concluded. “There are so many things going on, but it all flows. It’s going to be a great competition.”
Anderson retained her slopestyle World Cup crown the following year and finished in the top five in the big air standings. She then kicked off the Olympic season with a slopestyle win in Cardrona (NZL) in September 2017, a result that bodes well for her bid for double gold in PyeongChang.