Slopestyle approved for 2014 Olympics
On Monday, the International Olympic Committee's Executive Board approved the addition of Ski and Snowboard Slopestyle to the Winter Olympics roster of events, effective in 2014. The decision was announced via press conference from the IOC's meeting in Durban, South Africa.
"The reason why we waited for the inclusion of slopestyle, both ski and snowboard was the feasibility study that was underway in terms of logistics [in Sochi]," said IOC President Jacques Rogge. "The feasibility was very good so there was no issue in this respect."
Rogge added: "Slopestyle is a very popular sport, and this is growing very fast. You have young, dedicated, spectacular athletes. Definitely, I believe it has the same future as the beginning of snowboarding in Nagano in 1998. You see what has happened in between."
Slopestyle athletes welcomed the IOC announcement. "I am so stoked to hear that the IOC believes that slopestyle snowboarding is ready for the Olympics," says snowboarder Chas Guldemond. "This is so huge for our sport. I also feel lucky that I will now be able to work toward qualifying for the Olympic Games and the chance to represent my country."
"I'm really excited," says Canadian skier and four-time Winter X Ski Slopestyle gold medalist Kaya Turski. "I'm looking forward to the Olympics and putting a lot of work into making it happen for Canada."
Men's and women's ski and snowboard slopestyle are the latest action-sports disciplines to be included in the Olympic program. In April, the IOC Executive Committee added Ski Halfpipe to the lineup for Sochi, but requested further feasibility studies before making a final decision on slopestyle.
At the end of May, the IOC sent a team of experts to Russia to determine if the host city and venue were prepared for the additional athletes and scheduling requirements the new disciplines would bring.
The International Ski Federation, which is responsible for designing the freestyle skiing and snowboard venue, also visited Sochi on April 27-28 for an independent site inspection.
During this visit, the FIS team found that trees had been removed from terrain designated as a possible slopestyle site, and daily construction work was still underway. Robi Moresi, the FIS Snowboard Assistant Race Director, was tasked with finding a slopestyle course location. Freestyle Skiing Coordinator Joseph Fitzgerald reported success, saying in an email: "We can integrate the slopestyle track within the tracks of the other cross events, and therefore share common features and a common finish area."
FIS expected the IOC to approve Ski and Snowboard Slopestyle and determined during the April visit that it was possible to add these events to the Olympic program. "We have worked out a schedule with the proposed addition of Slopestyle," Fitzgerald wrote in an email to ESPN after returning from Russia. "From our side and our recent experience on site, we can confirm and are positive that it is possible to stage Snowboard and Ski Slopestyle events within the present program for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games."
Olympic status for slopestyle also raises new questions, mainly how a creative, grassroots discipline will be approached by international federations used to running standardized events.
"With slopestyle, the course at each event is different. My only concern is that slopestyle could get too regulated and the course would be mapped out ahead of time and would be the same at each World Cup and all the events leading into the 2014 Olympics," says skier Gus Kenworthy. "I would just hate to see creativity left out of slopestyle courses."
"It's going to be really good for the sport," says snowboarder Sebastien Toutant. "It just has to have someone in charge who really knows snowboarding. I'm not sure how they are going to do it, but I really think it's really good for the sport."