Olympic snowboarders are still frustrated with secondary positions


Aspen, Colorado (AP) — A wind-blown ice pellet hits my face, making my cheeks feel like frozen sandpaper. Elsewhere in the mountains, alpine skiers were sent back to the hotel, saying it was too dangerous for the day’s race.

But for snowboarders, The contest was on.

Four years later, the day of the Pyeongchang Olympics is a source of bitter memories for riders, including gold medalist Jamie Anderson.

In their opinion, 20 years after their sport was brought to the Olympics, they are still treated like second-class citizens to give the Olympics a young and vibrant atmosphere. It was a loud and clear statement.

“Even if I’m lucky, I think it was a really, really terrible phone call,” Anderson said in an Associated Press interview this winter. It hasn’t been part of a slopestyle victory for over a decade. “And they didn’t really give the rider faith.”

That lack of belief was repeated in multiple interviews with AP’s riders and top executives in the industry for the Beijing tournament starting next week. They expressed similar sentiment about the IOC, the Swiss-based International Ski Federation (FIS), which operates snowboarding at the Olympic Games, and the American Ski and Snowboarding Association. All of these benefit from making snowboarding mainstream.

“When you really think about it, we were always oil and water at the Olympics,” said Donna Burton Carpenter. Her late husband, Jake, invented modern snowboarding. And it was accepted at resorts all over the world.

It started at the 1998 Olympic debut in Nagano when the word “snowboard” was misspelled on the venue scoreboard. The riders were put on a rain-soaked halfpipe and good performance was almost impossible. The Halfpipe Contest was held as a result of a marijuana test by Giant Slalom winner Ross Lebagriati, while enhancing stereotypes that fuel critics who felt snowboarding wasn’t a “real” sport.

Shaun White emerged as a true mainstream sports star after winning the gold medal in 2006, but in 2010 and 2014, substandard halfpipes hampered the quality of some contests. .. Including the 2010 Parallel Giant Slalom RaceHeld in a storm driving, making an umbrella as convenient as a snow suit.

By 2018, snowboarders had some kind of victory by changing the Olympic rules, which required local companies to part of a course construction contract at the Olympic venue. This will allow the industry’s top courses and halfpipe shapers to participate in the building, and most people agree that it will lead to better riding conditions.

Still, the accommodation and schedule changes made for Alpine course skiers due to bad weather were not made for snowboarders. Four years ago, when all the issues were highlighted, the day of the Women’s Slopestyle Contest, riders had poor communication and could lose their chances of competition if they didn’t go to the question day. I explained the general feeling. For the gold medal.

As a result, a contest was held in which 25 Olympic athletes each won two runs. Of the total of 50 runs, 41 ended without being able to survive the raging situation of her backside, face plant, or off-course rider.

“It was bloody there,” said Mark McMorris, a Canadian snowboard star who won the bronze medal at the Men’s Slopestyle Contest, which was also held in windy and harsh conditions. “And throwing women’s slopestyles out there, where the wind is a bigger factor. Those people are on the ground in alpine skiing instead of flying in the air with 80-foot jumps. In that sense, snowboarding I think it’s sometimes overlooked. “

Dean Gosper, an Australian FIS member seeking to improve the status of action sports in both the Olympic and euro-centric organizations, said the FIS has done many reviews and rehashes of the event of the day. Eventually, the event proceeded under adverse conditions due to the tight schedule of the Olympic Games and the lack of “weather days” (the long-standing backup days in Alpine’s schedule).

“One of the costs freestyle snowboarding and freeskiing had to pay to participate in the (Olympic) mix is ​​that they have a very tight schedule for running the event,” Gosper said.

It’s strange that when the rider heads to Beijing for a contest starting February 5, McMorris and many of his counterparts are in essentially the same fight as their predecessors did in the 90’s. I feel it.

At the time, snowboarding was booming into today’s $ 1 billion industry, but backcountry riding and freedom of expression sports already had a healthy competitive side. Jury.

As a result, some riders, especially Terje Haakonsen of Norway, were the best freestyle riders in the world at the time and answered “no” to the Olympics. Håkonsen has always spoken openly about the IOC and his contempt for the Olympics, and was famous for stepping into Disneyland with his children on February 11, 2002. The day an American man won a medal in the Salt Lake City game, And days that are often regarded as a popular turning point in the mainstream of sports.

“I won more prize money in the 90’s than people would win in the current FIS contest,” Håkonsen said in an AP interview last winter. “So, was the Olympics good for sports when the prize money was lower than in the 90’s? I don’t think so.”

There is no official database of prizes, but Håkonsen won $ 100,000 in the halfpipe contest of the day. Recently, a good first prize is considered $ 45,000.

A central unresolved issue was the IOC’s decision to make FIS the governing body for snowboarding. Initially, there was no synergistic effect between skiing and snowboarding. It spent early years trying to slowly move the road to the mountains where most skiers didn’t want it.

A few days after finishing 15th in the 2018 Slopestyle Contest, Austrian snowboarder Anna Gasser, who won the gold medal at Big Air, said, “I don’t know how much respect skiers have for snowboarders at the end of the day. Hmm. “

A generation later, many on the snowboard side claim that there wasn’t much change.

Kelly Clark, a three-time Olympic medalist and one of the sports icons, said she recently spoke with a panel of Alpine experts about her role in the funding sector of the American Ski Snowboard Association. rice field. Part of her presentation was about the details needed to build a good halfpipe. Such things were not used during at least half of the six Olympics where snowboarding was featured.

“After that, a lot of people came to me and said they didn’t know that the condition of the pipe was important,” Clark said. “I was just surprised at the reaction.”

FIS executive Gosper said the organization needs to continue working to include snowboarding and action sports as a perfect partner, not just an add-on to Alpine.

“I think there’s a long way to go,” he said. “And I think the FIS certainly had a discipline bias. It’s not malicious. It’s through traditional history.”

One of the clearest signs of Alpine’s dominance in Europe: Towards the Olympics, the continent has 15 of the 60 top-ranked snowboarders on the world point list in their respective fields. By comparison, Europeans rank 90th out of the top 10 in the five alpine disciplines.

But in the United States, snowboarders make up the bulk of USSA’s success. With the help of current headliners White and Chloe Kim, snowboarders have won 31 Olympic medals since the sport participated in the Olympics. Alpine skiers, including Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, won a total of 21 wins during that period.

Given these numbers, Barton Carpenter is shocked that only about 5% of the 88 USSA funding committee members she holds have a snowboard background. I said I received it. This number was confirmed by the panel’s AP review. ..

“We have produced more medals, and that is ultimately the way you measure success,” Barton Carpenter said. “So give us some of the money. It’s (completely) up.”

Financing formulas are more complicated than that. In general, turning an alpine skier into an Olympic medal candidate costs more, from training and coaching costs to increased travel costs to compete primarily on circuits in Europe.

USSA hasn’t released a breakdown of the money given to skis and snowboards, but two people who know the data told AP that the split in favor of Alpine could be at least 75-25. Said. People didn’t want their name to be used because the data wasn’t published.

Trisha Worthington, head of the USSA Financing Commission, did not respond to emails sent by AP.

At the heart of the debate is that snowboarders have always felt tribal loyalty to themselves. A long-held mantra in the community is that snowboarders, not skiers, need to snowboard not only at the grassroots but also at the highest levels. , that too.

Burton Carpenter is considering extracting snowboards from the FIS domain, running a skateboard, and considering a partnership with the International Roller Sports Federation, which may have more in common with his winter cousins. I said that I am doing it.

“Jake would say he never imagined where the sport would go, but it was the rider, not the FIS or the IOC,” Barton Carpenter said of his deceased husband. “I’m trying to find a way to hear their voice. I don’t know if you can do it under skis. They proved they can’t, and they’re us I don’t listen to you. “

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