Anderson hoping for golden slopestyle debut
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Jamie Anderson isn’t the type to be intimidated. Making a career out of flinging yourself down mountains isn’t for the faint of heart.
Yet the greatest slopestyle snowboarder of her generation is still trying to get a handle on these Olympics.
Yes, the Extreme Park course at Rosa Khutor is risky. Yes, there’s danger at the end of every rail, jump and Russian nesting doll along a 2,000-foot roller coaster that has already taken out a handful of contenders and chased away no less a snowboarder than Shaun White.
But there’s gold and glory at the bottom.
It’s why the 23-year-old American from South Lake Tahoe, Calif., will put aside her mixed feelings about the politics surrounding the Sochi Games and the fairness of a course she thinks isn’t quite up to par and focus on the triumph that awaits if she can fend off the rest of the field in Sunday’s slopestyle final.
“I think you’re just going to have to be strong and on your feet,” she said. “You can’t go half-assed onto this course. It’s all or nothing.”
Anderson saw both sides of the mountain during her first week in Sochi, slamming hard during practice on Wednesday only to bounce back 24 hours later to post the second-best score in qualifying. She looked more relieved than stoked after finishing her run, grateful she won’t have to go through a semifinal run before the medal round begins.
“It’s a challenging course,” she said. “A lot of impact for everyone. Little 15-year-olds are like, ‘I’m not even old and my back is still sore every day. Not even from crashing, just from riding.’”
Though Anderson began the games as a heavy favorite, it will take fireworks to fend off a group that includes Austria’s Anna Gasser, who topped qualifying with a score of 95.50. And while Norway’s Silje Norendal needs to survive the semifinals, she’s still just two weeks removed from stunning Anderson at the Winter X Games.
Then there’s defending halfpipe champion Torah Bright, who is trying for an unprecedented Olympic triple by competing in slopestyle, halfpipe and snowboardcross.
Bright hasn’t spent much time on the slope over the past year while focusing on snowboardcross. It hardly looked like it in qualifying. Using her athleticism to attack the jumps, Bright ended up second in her qualifying heat with an almost leisurely ride down the hill.
There’s plenty in reserve for the finals, where she’s certain adrenaline will take care whatever rust remains.
“It’s about the connection you develop between your board and the snow,” she said. “The more time you spend on snow, the greater the connection will be. I’ve been on snow more than I ever have been.”
Regardless, a day after Sage Kotsenburg’s sublime ride to victory in men’s slopestyle, Bright is certain the women can deliver similar thrills.
“We are going to put on a great show,” she said.