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Trouble With the Slopestyle Course at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

Injuries and complaints tainted the first-ever Olympic Slopestyle course



The slopestyle course at the 2010 Burton US Open Snowboarding/ Swatch TTR stop slopestyle at Stratton Mountain, Vermont

Photo credit: Travis Hightower Imaging

Whether it was Torstein Horgmo’s broken collarbone, Shaun White’s decision to drop out of the Olympic Slopestyle competition,  or the countless other rider complaints about the take-offs and landings, the slopestyle course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park was certainly less than perfect -- at least during the first days of practice.

The Norwegian medal hopeful Torstein Horgmo wasn’t the only rider injured while practicing on the course just three days before the qualifying runs were to take place. Finnish rider Marika Enne was carried off the course in a stretcher after a painful fall in which she banged her head, and the sport’s superstar Shaun White dropped out of the slopestyle competition after jamming his left wrist and deeming the course, “a little intimidating.”

Wet conditions and a course with extremely steep kickers had athletes complaining about the course’s dangerousness, so Olympic officials took action. Roberto Moresi -- an International Ski Federation official and assistant snowboard race director for the 2014 Winter Olympics -- stated that course designers were shaving the tops and bottoms of the jumps to make the course more fluid.

The course designer, Anders Forsell, stated that only minor changes needed to be made, and that changes are expected after riders practice on the course and voice their concerns. “On a non-tested course, you’re always nervous, but it worked out fine,” Forsell said in an interview published on CBSNews.com.

Riders and coaches agreed that the course was greatly improved. "The original course was gigantic. It has been tweaked now, including by reducing the size of the jumps. The organizers took Horgmo's injury seriously and acted accordingly. I attended today's training; our coaches and specialists told me that the course is now ideal, so there should be no more complaints," Alexey Pokashnikov, a coach of the Russian freestyle team, said.

And the gold medal winner from the United States Sage Kotsenburg agreed. “People were saying it was dangerous and deeming it unsafe and they hadn’t even stepped 2 feet on the course. I kind of tried to squash that. The jumps are really high here, but we need those big jumps to do the tricks. Making the jumps smaller would have made it more dangerous. But the course is awesome. They did a really good job with it,” he said in an interview published in the Boston Globe.

Whether or not the course was too dangerous was something that ultimately riders and coaches had varied opinions about, and is something spectators never knew about. But one thing is for certain, the first ever slopestyle competition at the Winter Olympics -- littered with cab double corks, triple corks and even a successful 1620 -- was a great success in the end.

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