The US Olympic halfpipe and slopestyle teams have officially-officially been named. The speculations and calculations are all tallied up and I’m pretty sure the level of nervous-high-stress-finger-crossing-anxiety on the planet as just been lowered…by, like, a lot. All the dark horses have made their moves and the favorites have either landed themselves on the team or are quickly sorting their Olympic-week pow missions to isolated TV-free-cabins in northern BC and hopefully, now that that’s over we can all get back to snowboarding…for the fun of it..
In the past five U.S. Olympic qualification cycles, there are few things that remain the same; the tricks have sure as hell changed and the faces have changed too (at least some of them) but there is one thing that is always the same, that no matter what, we never know the team until the very last run of the very last event. I mean yes, there are a few stock and steady shredders like Kelly Clark and Jamie Anderson who can get the job done in two, maybe three events. But for the rest of the field, including master competitor and generally flawless shredder, Shaun White, we’re kept guessing (and stressing) until the last rider drops. This, of course, is highly effing stressful for everyone involved from riders to coaches to family and friends and fans too. And by the end of the week, our entire community is taking teeny, tiny, sip-like breaths of air to just stay alive, while we all cross our fingers and bite our nails. And then poof, it’s done and suddenly it doesn’t seem all that important.
Now, we’ve had a few days to digest the results and realize that team or no team we’re all still alive. We’ve come to terms with the fact that we won’t see Elena land her double or make Olympic history like we’d so hoped (damn, she was close) or see Scotty get some much earned TMZ Olympic redemption. We’ve had time to recognize that Olympic newbie Sage Kotsenburg will showcase the creativity of shred on the Olympic stage and that wild-child, Kaitlyn Farrington, will blow minds in the village. Seriously, we should warn the Russians about this one ;)
We’ve also had a chance to see the toll that competing in high-pressure, high-stakes mode from the minute the snowfalls til the plane boards for Russia, takes on us. We watched some riders, like Hannah Teter, turn it on at just the right time (like she always does #how) and watched other flawless riders not be able to put down a single run. We watched the progression of people’s stress or joy transform their faces, manifesting in cold sores, kinked necks and a weariness that wore down many a smiley face. By the end of Mammoth’s marathon week, half of our young, agile snowboarding scene looked like a bunch of 30-something desk jockies or PTSD survivors. So, as much as I’m a fan of the Olympics and the process of watching people throw down and go for the gold and dig deep and all that Olympic montage shit, I’m glad it’s done. Now, we can just have a regular old made-for-TV, one-day-only-contest under the lights in Aspen and X Games will finally feel chill.
Sidenote: Making the Olympic team is always a day (or a zillion days really) filled with huge highs and huge lows. I’m so proud of all my homies who made the team and for all of those who were so damn close and of all the coaches, like Bill Enos, Peter Foley and Ricky Bower (pictured above), who weather the storm with these badasses every damn day.
Let the games begin…