Olympic Pipe

At a summit held last week in Antalya, Turkey, the International Ski Federation (FIS) Congress voted unanimously to support Ski Halfpipe in its bid to become a medal event for men and women at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The decision means that the FIS will now take Ski Halfpipe's case to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the organization that has the final say on whether a sport will be admitted to the Olympic Games.

Photo: Christian Van Hanja/Shazamm/ESPN Images

Ski Pipe's potential initiation to the 2014 Games would be "huge" for 21-year-old Canadian Justin Dorey, and for the sport as a whole.

The endorsement of the FIS marks a crucial step forward for halfpipe skiing. The IOC requires that a sport be affiliated with a recognized international federation before it can be admitted as an Olympic event. Lack of support from the top governing body in skiing stymied fervent efforts by French and North American representatives to push halfpipe into the Games. But with the official support of the FIS, all the pieces now seem to be in place.

"The most important step in this whole process has finally happened," explains Trennon Paynter, a former Olympic mogul skier who now coaches and manages the ad hoc Canadian national halfpipe team. "Until this point, Ski Halfpipe has never been officially proposed or submitted to anybody at the IOC."

The FIS endorsement does not make Olympic Ski Pipe a sure thing for the 2014 Games. The federation's bid to admit Women's Ski Jumping in 2010, for example, was rejected by the IOC on the grounds that that sport did not comprise a robust international field — another basic criterion for Olympic status.

But with top contenders coming from New Zealand, the United States, Canada, France, Finland, Japan and Switzerland, to name just a few, ski halfpipe doesn't exhibit the same deficiency. By all accounts within the sport, it fulfills all the IOC's other requirements. And then there's the marketing argument: Snowboard Halfpipe was wildly popular in the past two Winter Olympics, drawing huge viewership numbers from the coveted youth demographic, and Ski Halfpipe could presumably ride this momentum in 2012.

"All indications are that the answer is going to be yes," Paynter projects.

The IOC's decision is expected to be final by early November of this year. And if Paynter's optimism turns out to be justified, it will mark a turning point for halfpipe skiers worldwide.

"It would be huge," says Justin Dorey. The 21-year-old Canadian welcomes Olympic status for the increase in funding and resources that would likely come along with it.

"It's going to change our sport for the better," says Dorey. He hopes that, as a residual benefit of Olympic status, "There will be a lot more money to fund the type of training facilities that [most halfpipe skiers] have never had the opportunity to use before."

Despite already being well known for competition runs that are exceptionally technical and risky, Dorey has never used an airbag or a foam pit to learn a new trick in the pipe. It is facilities like this that he — along with countless other halfpipe skiers — hopes will come to his sport.

Facilities, funding, and recognition aside, skiers are crossing their fingers for another reason. In a sport dominated by youth and rife with all the noncompliant tendencies that go along with it, the visceral thrill of someday competing on the world's largest stage is still alive, well, and zealously coveted. And it is this honor that supporters of halfpipe skiing the world over have firmly in mind as they await the IOC's decision.

"For an athlete, there is nothing that can ever top the feeling of competing with the world at the Olympics," says Paynter. "The athletes that I coach show how much they want it in the way that they work every day — and I'm very glad that they're finally going to have it."

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