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Olympic Ski Recap – Better Late Than Never

March 4, 2014

Just as I expected, the addition of the new freestyle ski events I previewed made the Olympics a lot more exciting.  I (not so) secretly streamed hours of the games at work and had other events spoiled for me by excited athletes and reporters on the ground via Twitter.  But I enjoyed every moment of it.  

Not to go all “ski hipster” on you right now, but it was exciting to watch some of the skiers I’ve been following for years become borderline household names, and garnered the attention of titans of pop culture like Miley Cyrus, T-Swift, and- most importantly- the Wu-Tang Clan.   Here’s a rundown of Olympic moments that will shine on in our memories almost as long as Johnny Weir’s outfits. 

Joss Christensen Does a Switch Unnatural Triple Right in the Face of His Haters

Earlier this season, the decision to take Joss Christensen to Sochi as a discretionary pick raised some eyebrows.  Many believed that Alex Schlopy (who would have CLEANED UP on Tinder in the Olympic village) or Tom Wallisch (who secretly fought through an ACL injury for almost a year) deserved to represent the US in Slopestyle despite falling short of the standards for automatic qualification.  

But the best way to shut up your detractors is to go out and win a gold medal, and that’s exactly what Christensen did.   Nick Goepper may have gotten a little more creative with the top rail section, Joss executed a flawless run, incorporating the technical elements it takes to win a contest of this caliber without sacrificing on the style that makes skiing events like this fun to watch in the first place.  

As soon he rode away clean from his switch unnatural triple cork 1260 on the last jump – the ski equivalent of texting someone a plot summary of Infinite Jest using only your left hand while flipping three times- Joss pretty much had it in the bag.  Everyone who doubted if he deserved to be in Sochi would have shut their mouths if their jaws weren’t already stuck to the floor.  

With a gold medal in a first-time event and the NBC-approved narrative of skiing for his late father, it seems that Joss Christensen is poised to become a household name.  And I’d be lying if I said he didn’t deserve it.  

Henrik Harlaut Wins the Olympics Without Winning A Medal

In my preview of slopestyle and half pipe before the games began, I singled out Swedish skier and pre-eminent Haile Selassie scholar Henrik “E-Dollo” Harlaut, Sweden’s pre-eminent Halle Selassie scholar as my favorite to win gold in the first ever Olympic Slopestyle contest.  

Unfortunately, Harlaut wound up in sixth.  While he had the goods to win gold with a clean run, what he did on the slopestyle course quickly became irrelevant.   With the eyes of the world upon him, E-Dollo channeled the spirit of the late, great  Russell Tyrone Jones at the ’98 Grammys and announced that Wu-Tang is indeed for the children.  

With that, Harlaut cemented his legacy as a child educator, pant amputator, and one of the greatest slopestyle skiers in the game.  An official blessing from RZA and a follow on Twitter from Raekwon shows that this gesture of devotion to the 36 chambers did not go unnoticed.  

For all the fear of freeskiing losing its soul on the Olympic stage, Henrik Harlaut is proof that steeze, and serious competition can coexist.  You know you’ve made it big when a titan of journalism like Buzzfeed  writes an a profile about you does a Google image search for your name (seek it out yourselves.  I refuse to link to it on principle). 

Oh, and he swapped his Swedish Olympic team sweatshirt for an official Jamaican bobsled team jacket.  Wearing a gold medal around all the time is tacky anyways.  INSPIRED!

Gus Kenworthy Loves Puppies, Bangerz

While Putin and his cronies were using the Olympics as a diversion to move troops into regions of Russia bordering Crimea worrying about melting snow, slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy melted hearts around the globe when this now-famous photo of him holding an armful of stray puppies went viral after his medal-winning run.  

In truth, Gus was one of many athletes who decided to adopt Sochi strays. But he became the face of the movement to give Sochi’s strays a new home, even postponing his return flight in order to secure the paperwork needed to bring both mutts and a medal back to the US with him.  

And as it turns out, the young wives’ tale about girls digging guys with dogs is true.  At least if you can land a switch triple rodeo 1440.  After Kneworthy asked Miley Cyrus to be his valentine (questionable choice, but if you win a medal you get a free pass), Miley followed Kenworthy on Twitter and retweeted one of his puppy pics.  I would pay a lot of Rubles to see what their DM’s look like right now.  Hopefully the two can twerk it out (Ok got that out of my system).

Did McDonalds® and MARIJUANA CIGARETTES cost Torin Yater-Wallace a Spot in Halfpipe Finals? 

Torin Yater-Wallace overcame numerous obstacles just to get to the Olympics.  At the age of 18, he’s already been more or less the sole provider of his hard-luck family for some time, after growing up more or less homeless for a period of years.  You could argue that the kid deserved a break the day he was found euphorically happy with his haul of McDonalds® (official ‘fast’ ‘food’ vendor at the Sochi Olympics). 

However, Deadspin, routine practitioners of sports journalism malfeasance, alleged that sweet, innocent Torrin was HIGH on WEED.  But as it turns out that #TYW is just an easily excitable little guy who happens to love the access to McDonalds(LLC) that the official Sochi 2014 Olympic Village branded experience provides.  The pot thickened Torin admitted that he’d rather have had In-N-Out- a burger chain more or less exclusive to the 420-friendly state of California- in the Olympic village

When later asked why his diet more closely resembled that of a Midwesterner living in a food desert than an Olympian forged from brawn and steel (#paleo ), Yater-Wallace more or less said “I don’t compete in a sport where I have to take my shirt off”, and considered the issue settled. 

Hopefully he loads up on Chobani®™ Greek yogurt and avoids Colorado and Seattle over the next four years as he gets ready restore his honor with a gold medal. 

Alex Beaulieu-Marchande Scores Style Points (but not real points)

I singled “ABM” out as a dark horse for the slopestyle podium in my Olympic preview. He didn’t claim a medal.  In fact, he finished in 12th place (out of 12 skiers in the final).  And while the Olympics aren’t a youth soccer league that gives out participation trophies, Alex earns an honorable mention for “best use of Slavic trinket as athletic prop “.  Because this was filthier than some olympic village tapwater.  I still think ABM can be a breakout star, and hopefully some of freeskiing’s newfound audience will be following his future. 

Women’s Halpipe Field Skis for Sarah

Without Sarah Burke, Maddie Bowman, Brita Sigourney, and the rest of the field in Women’s halfpipe never would have found themselves in Sochi.  

Through her appearances in groundbreaking early 2000’s Poor Boyz Productions ski films like Propaganda and Session 1242, Sarah showed that some women could put the boys to shame.  Burke lobbied successfully to include Women’s ski halfpipe in the X games, eventually winning four gold medals in the event over the course of her storied carrier.  

Despite these accolades, the Olympics were always her ultimate goal. And Sarah’s advocacy after the Vancouver games ensured that women’s slopestyle and halfpipe would be included alongside the men’s events in 2014, where she was poised to win gold for Canada.  Tragically, Burke passed away in January 2012 from injuries sustained while training for the very event she ushered onto the world stage through her tireless efforts on and off the hill.

And while the event’s competitors were unfairly banned from wearing the “Celebrate Sarah” stickers that have helped to keep her legacy alive, there was no mistaking that last Thursday’s was a celebration of Sarah’s life and everything she meant to the sport.  Throughout the evening, there was an air of camaraderie that transcended the competitive stakes of the event.  And when it was all over, gold medalist Maddie Bowman looked to the sky in a gesture of gratitude for the woman who gave her the opportunity to stand atop an Olympic podium.  Shortly after, Sarah Burke’s ashes were scattered in the halfpipe at Rosa Khutor, a place that would not have meant nearly as much without her.

Other Great Olympic and/or Post-Olympic Moments

The cringefest that was the “Win a date with Nick Goepper” Contest.   

Johnny Weir giving Putin the finger with his choice of outfits  

The fact that there are so many figure skating events

The fact that curling has probably gone from underrated to overrated in the past 10 years

The aforementioned Jamaican Bobsled Team  

See you in four years.  Hopefully the world won’t forget that freeskiing is an awesome sport to follow between now and then.  In case you’re interested, I’d recommend keeping up with the latest from  Freeskier  and  Newschoolers

 

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