The highly anticipated premier of Freeskiing at the Winter Olympics was a resounding success and Atomic Freeski athletes performed phenomenally well in both of the new events. Gus Kenworthy won the silver medal in Men’s Slopestyle, Mike Riddle also won silver in Men’s Halfpipe and Ayana Onuzuka took bronze in women’s halfpipe.
The inclusion of freeski halfpipe and slopestyle at the Winter Olympics in Sochi was easily one of the most historic moments in freeskiing’s relatively short history. Not only was it the chance for freeskiers to represent their country at the highest possible level, it was the opportunity to introduce this unique and thriving sport to the greater mainstream. The high-flying exhilarating action of these events thrilled spectators and media commentators alike and gained countless new international fans in the process, many of which witnessed Atomic Freeski athletes performing at the highest level and stand on podiums as a result.
MIKE RIDDLE’S PRECISION
Canada’s Mike Riddle had been dreaming of the day that he could finally drop into the Olympic Halfpipe for many years. When that day finally came, his determination, prowess and sheer precision was a textbook display of Olympic athleticism. The conditions were far from optimal, the pipe was bumpy due to heavy snow fall, which collected in the flat bottom. Many athletes had issues on the sticky and bumpy snow, but thanks to the finely tuned base and park rocker on the Atomic Punx on his feet, as well as his tactical and precise skiing, Mike handled those issues with apparent ease. His run consisted of both a left and a right side double cork 1260 mute grab, a left 900 japan grab, alley-oop 360 bow and arrow grab and finished off with massive switch 720. Large airs and clean landings gave Riddle a score of 90.60 and awarded him with very well deserved Olympic Silver Medal. All the years of preparation paid of and Mike was ecstatic like never before! Jossi Wells also performed exceedingly well, narrowly missing the podium in fourth place with a super styled out run that had many core media commentators calling him the styliest skier at the Olympics.
GUS KENWORTHY’S VALOUR
The slopestyle final on Rosa Khutor was hands down the most spectacular and competitive slopestyle competition the sport of freeskiing has ever witnessed. While the technical rails and gigantic jumps enabled the skiers to display their full arsenal of tricks, they also caused many competitors to fall on the demanding course. In the first run of finals Gus Kenworthy from the USA put together an incredibly difficult array of tricks and only came unstuck on his final jump, a switch triple rodeo 1440, the most dangerous trick attempted that day. On his second run Gus displayed sheer valour and put it all on the table. After a very technical upper rail section Kenworthy sent a massive double cork 1620 tail on the first jump, a switch double rodeo 1080 japan on the second, and stomped the switch triple 1440 japan on the final and largest jump. He was the only skier to even attempt a switch triple and was rewarded accordingly with a score of 93.60 and the Olympic Silver Medal! The huge smile on Gus’s face reflected the years of hard work and determination that lead him to this point. Norway’s Andreas Håtveit missed out on the podium by just 0.60 points after stringing together a very technical and flawless run, but was still overjoyed by his fourth place.
AYANA ONUZUKA’S AMPLITUDE
A relative newcomer to the women’s halfpipe scene, Japan’s Ayana Onuzuka has gone from strength to strength over the last few season, steadily climbing up the competitive ranks in the lead up to Sochi. Ayana continued her consistency and dominated the pipe with her usual massive amplitude, riding the transition as if she was born in a pipe. She was all style with her first straight air and second alley-oop, she then stomped both way 540s, a smooth 720 and finished off with a very large switch 540. 83.20 was her final score, enough for a well deserved Bronze Medal. Tears of joy could be seen on her cheeks as the reality of her achievement finally settled in.
We want to use this opportunity to congratulate and thank all the Atomic freeski athletes that competed at the Winter Olympic Games; they represented the sport of freeskiing in the best possible way and helped create a large impact on the mainstream’s perception and awareness of the sport. Undoubtedly this will help freeskiing’s appeal grow even more and it’s safe to say that at the next Olympics, freeski halfpipe and slopestyle will yet again be some of the most exciting events to watch.