Schedule of Events
No athlete in the sport of competitive snowboarding has experienced the longevity of success that Shaun White has enjoyed over the past decade. The gold medalist in the halfpipe in both Torino and Vancouver, the Flying Tomato returns to Sochi looking not only to win a third straight Olympic title in the pipe but also to contend for the inaugural gold in slopestyle. He will have to look out for Russian-born Swiss snowboarder Iouri Podladchikov, who at last year’s X Games Europe unleashed a trick even more difficult than the one that won White gold in Vancouver: a Cab double-cork 1440, a move featuring four full twists packed inside of two flips:
With the successful execution of the maneuver, Podladchikov — the current halfpipe world champion — will have the ammunition to possibly steal gold away from White. If somebody other than one of these two men is standing atop the podium when the competition is over, it will be one of the biggest upsets of the 2014 Olympic Games.
If White fails to win gold in the pipe, he will still be the favorite in slopestyle. The new event, featuring athletes grinding a series of rails in addition to executing jumps down the mountain, is an X Games-inspired competition that will surely be a crowd-pleaser. His biggest competition in the event will likely be the recently-crowned Winter X Games champion Max Parrot of Canada. His compatriot, Mark McMorris, would have also been a top contender for the podium, but a broken rib suffered at the X Games in Aspen will keep him out of the Olympics.Two-time defending world champion Alex Pullin of Australia will be favored to win Olympic gold in snowboard cross. As a 22-year-old in Vancouver four years ago, Pullin emerged with the fastest time in the qualifying runs, but bombed out in the first elimination round. He will be challenged by Nate Holland, the American that landed just off the podium four years ago, and six-time Winter X Games champion in the discipline.
This year, in addition to slopestyle, another event will be added to bring the total snowboarding medals on offer to five apiece for both men and women. The event, the parallel slalom, is similar in competitive structure to the parallel giant slalom that has been a regular feature of recent Olympiads. The favorite to win the event is Italy’s Roland Fischnaller, who took medals in both the slalom and giant slalom at last winter’s world championships and will compete in both events in Sochi. His main competition in the parallel slalom will come from current world champion Rok Marguc of Slovenia, with Austria’s Benjamin Karl and France’s Sylvain Dufour also challenging for podium position.
In the parallel giant slalom, Karl — who took silver in Vancouver in the event — is the two-time defending world champion and will be the man to beat in Sochi. But Canada’s Jasey Jay Anderson, the defending Olympic gold medalist, will hope to stop Karl’s momentum. Fischnaller, Marguc, and Dufour will also fight for one of the top three spots, and we could potentially see a husband-and-wife snowboard team each land medals if American-born Russian Vic Wild can snag a podium position in the giant slalom.
Men's Snowboarding Medal Favorites
Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter have been the dominant American names in the women’s halfpipe over the past decade. Each woman has an Olympic gold medal already in her trophy case, from Salt Lake City and Torino respectively, and both will be back for the United States in Sochi seeking a return for the Stars and Stripes to the top of the podium. Four years ago, Australia’s Torah Bright swooped in and stole away the top step of the podium, relegating Teter and Clark to silver and bronze.
All three will be in the medal running once again, though American fans should also watch out for Arielle Gold. The 17-year-old from Steamboat Springs arrives in Sochi as the reigning world champion in the halfpipe, having claimed the title last January in Stoneham, Quebec. Though the field did not include any of the Olympic medalists from Vancouver, she followed it up a few weeks later with a bronze at the Winter X Games, showing that she is capable of pulling off big tricks in big moments.She will not, however, be going for a Shaun White-style double in slopestyle as well despite having won a silver medal at the Junior Olympic level in the event. In the new event, Canadian Spencer O’Brien and American Jamie Anderson will enter as strong podium prospects. They will, however, have to fend off defending world champion and recent 2014 X Games winner Silje Norendal of Norway if they hope to reach the top step.
Those who remember Lindsey Jacobellis’ agony of defeat in Torino as she hot-dogged her way out of the snowboard cross gold medal will wonder if she is capable of finally attaining that elusive Olympic title. Four years ago she failed to even reach the final after falling into another snowboarder and getting disqualified in the semifinal. She should again reach the podium, but cracking the Canadian tandem of Dominique Maltais and defending Olympic champion Maëlle Ricker will probably prove too tough to finish first.
The parallel events are where the Russians might finally reach the podium in their home Olympiad. Alena Zavarzina, the wife of the above-mentioned American expatriate snowboarding for Russia, is a medal hopeful in the parallel giant slalom. Her compatriot Ekaterina Tudegesheva, the defending world champion in the parallel slalom, should at least reach the medal rounds in the newly-added event.
Getting gold, however, will prove difficult. Switzerland’s Patrizia Kummer is the prohibitive favorite in the slalom, having dominated the World Cup circuit this season after finishing behind Tudegesheva in Quebec last winter. She is on the best form of any slalom specialist coming to Sochi next month. Tomoka Takeuchi, the Japanese snowboarder that trains with the Swiss parallel team, won her first World Cup event this winter and is also a medal hopeful in the event.
In the giant slalom, a pair of Germans look like the biggest roadblocks that could restrict Zavarzina’s quest for gold. Amelie Kober — who took bronze in both the giant slalom and slalom at Stoneham — has previously been on the Olympic podium when she took silver in this discipline eight years ago in Torino. Watch out as well for her compatriot, Isabella Laböck, who is the defending world champion and will be hoping to defend her title as the strongest woman in the world at her craft.
Women's Snowboarding Medal Favorites
About the Author: Zach Bigalke
Zach is a historian and author who has been covering sports near and far for various publications since 2006. Formerly the managing editor of Informative Sports and Global Turnstile, he has also been featured at Helium, FanSided, the Portland State Vanguard and other online publications and is the author of three books, including "Dispatches from Vancouver: A Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America's View of the XXI Winter Olympiad". He currently lives in Eugene, Oregon. Follow him at Twitter @zbigalke; for more info on his books, visit Amazon.