Views are that of the author, may not reflect those of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
The Canadian Men’s Slopestyle team are peaking at the right moment.
By now the majority of Canadians have heard the story of one of our gold medal favorites Mark McMorris. The Saskatchewan born and raised on the flats young man has been on or near the top of the Big Air and Slopestyle podiums for the last few years. Boasting the first ever landed triple cork–three flips with four spins and a deep bag of tricks he is one of our best hopes to bring home gold in Snowboarding events. He is a six time X-Games medalist winning the Gold in 2013 and coming up just short last week, losing to fellow Canadian Max Parrot.
Max Parrot is the best Canadian snowboarder you’ve probably never heard of. He is definitely peaking at the right moment winning 2014 X-Games Gold Medals in both Slopestyle and Big Air events. With that competition going down just weeks before Sochi 2014, it was a very impressive and dominant performance by Max giving him lots of confidence and positive momentum going into the Olympics.
To say his double gold medal performance in the 2014 Winter X Games was surprising is an understatement. To most snowboarders he wasn’t even on the radar as a medal contender. He is now more recognized and accomplished but still an underdog to win the first ever Olympic Slopestyle Snowboarding event. I believe he still has something to prove as he is tired of living in the shadow of his teammates Mark McMorris and Sebastien Toutant. Maxence Parrot is performing at this incredibly high level at the right time. Much like the Winter X Games, the 2nd biggest competition of the year, Canadians could finish 1st and 2nd again at the Olympics with either Parrot or McMorris at the top of the podium. At this point I give the advantage to Max Parrot who has the momentum, confidence and health on his side. Mark McMorris is planning on competing in the Olympics with a broken rib suffered on a nasty rail bail in the X Games.
Also in breaking injury news, one of the favorites to podium, Norwegian Torstein Horgmo, has pulled out of the Olympic slopestyle event after breaking his collarbone in practice. He was the top qualifier in the X Games and had a big bag of tricks to challenge for a top spot. This allows the door to swing open for a number of people including Americans Shaun White, Sage Kostenberg, Norwegian Stale Sandbech or fellow Canadian Sebastien Toutant, commonly known as Seb Toots. Apparently the course is either too gnarly or his bag of tricks in slopestyle isn’t big enough to hang with the Canadian medal favorites as a top story today is American Shaun White has withdrawn from the slopestyle competition.
Seb Toots has achieved the most consistent success in Canadian competitive Snowboarding over the last decade, making him a well-known and commercially successful athlete. One of the first people to have double corks on lock (two flips combined with three spins 1080 or 31/2 spins-1260) he earned a considerable of money on the podium in slopestyle competitions throughout the world and if there was a slopestyle event at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics he surely would have been one of the favorites to win. Many people question whether athletes like Shaun White and Seb Toots have kept up to the progression curve in slopestyle. We’ll have to tune in February 8th to see.
We will also wait and see if a united front of snowboarders push for changes to be made to the Sochi Slopestyle course, as there are growing fears that the course is too gnarly. Torstein Horgmo’s broken collarbone suffered in practice just reinforces the idea that modifications will have to be made. Either way, Canada is set to challenge for multiple medals at the inaugural Slopestyle Snowboarding event.
Slopestyle is a very important event to core snowboarders throughout Canada as it represents the heartbeat of Snowboarding. Freestyle riding these days is more orientated to a park full of rails, boxes and jumps. The majority of resorts including the 2010 Olympic venue (Cypress Mountain) do not have a halfpipe for snowboarders to practice on. The cost of cutting and maintaining a halfpipe is very high in comparison to a rail line or jump line so this style of riding is more prevalent on the slopes of Canadian resorts today. This is opposite to the halfpipe-dominant scene in the 90’s, when pipe debuted at the Olympics. The marquee event now is surely the Snowboarding Slopestyle.
In womens slopestyle, Canadian Spencer O’Brien has a legit shot at a medal along with favorites to podium American Jamie Anderson and Norwegian Silje Norendal.
Spencer O’Brien from North Vancouver BC is a west coast favorite with great style on rails, boxes and jumps. Look out for her to make some noise in Sochi.
When all is said and done Canada could have 3-4 medals from Slopestyle Snowboarding! Tune in the next few days to see slopestyle qualifications and finals this weekend.