The world’s best freeskiers and snowboarders traveled halfway around the world to Sochi, Russia, last week for the chance to preview the Olympic halfpipe and slopestyle venues that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics next February. Athletes ventured to the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort in the area of Krasnaya Polyana, just over 20 miles from the city center of Sochi, to participant in an FIS-sanctioned halfpipe event, marking the first major freeski and snowboard competition held in the region.
This was most athletes’ first time in Russia and many were eager to capture and share their experiences via Instagram. Click the photo above to view the full gallery, and get a glimpse of athletes’ impressions of Russia below.
We asked snowboarding coach J.J. Thomas, who won the bronze in halfpipe at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, what his first impressions of Sochi were: “It’s like a Third World place–a few cute little stray dogs cruising around and lots of construction. Some places are pretty nice, though. … The biggest shock for me in Sochi was the free-riding. The top of the mountain was so sick! I’ll put it up against any resort in the U.S. It might even have Jackson Hole and Snowbird beat as far as steep terrain goes. It was mind-blowing how fun it was up top. The pipe is another story, though.”
Photo: @jjthomas_ Greetings from ze motherland. Sochi, Russia.
According to a recent feature on ESPN by journalist Melissa Larsen, who was in Sochi for the trials, the weather was not ideal for riders during the week-long event, and the quality of the halfpipe was jeopardized by several days of rain. The A.P. reports Sochi is the warmest city ever to host a Winter Olympics, which leaves many to wonder whether or not the weather will be a debilitating factor for athletes trying to perform their best next year.
Photo:@gretchenbleiler Wish me luck tomorrow in this pipe! First competition of my winter. One year to #Olympics. Let’s get things started right! #sochi2014 #letsdothis
Pro snowboarder Louie Vito’s coach is J.J. Thomas, and the duo travel together on the road and to every contest. We asked Thomas what the difference between training for 2014 Olympics is compared to training for the 2002 Olympics, in which he won a bronze medal. “It’s similar in the sense that it takes a lot of hard work, but on the other end it is so different. There are so many talented riders now compared to back when I was competing–especially coming from Japan and China. Back then it was kind of all of us USA dudes battling against each other. Now it’s a real deep international field. I can’t get over the amount of talent in the pipe and slopestyle competitions right now,” he said. Thomas continued with his impressions of Russia: “Russia is a beautiful country, but don’t go there expecting great food or customer service. They are new to the whole service thing, so be ready for some straight-faced folks. Other than that, it’s a great place and the free-riding is insane!”
Photo: @jjthomas_ An evening gondola ride down with Louie Vito in Sochi.
What will the world’s view of Sochi be in less than a year?