When the world tunes in Thursday to see the Olympic debut of snowboard slopestyle, they will see a fleet of fresh, new faces and one or two Olympic veterans. Over the last few months, we've seen lightning-fast progression in the discipline, with the advent of triple corks (and back-to-back triple corks) making the Olympics anyone's game, but here are a few podium favorites to keep an eye on in Sochi.
Mark McMorris (CAN)
McMorris has long been the Olympic gold-medal favorite, winning nearly every slopestyle event he's entered since his X Games debut in 2011. Consistent and clean on both rail sections and jump lines, McMorris is the full slopestyle package. He'll be heading into Sochi nursing a fractured rib from a fall at X Games Aspen in January, but with 11 days of healing under his belt and backside 1440 triple corks on lock, he'll still be a major Olympic contender.
Max Parrot (CAN)
Despite a silver medal at X Games Aspen 2013, Parrot was the considered the third-best Canadian at the start of this season, behind Mark McMorris and Sebastien Toutant. But after an impressive showing in Aspen last month with back-to-back triple corks in slopestyle—he’s the first man to land those in a contest—and gold-medal performances in both slopestyle and big air, Parrot has just moved himself to the top of the list. The 19-year-old debuted his triple cork 1620 in the X Games Snowboard Big Air contest, so look to see that trick in the mix come Olympic finals.
Ståle Sandbech (NOR)
Sandbech earned himself two bronze medals in last month's X Games (slopestyle and big air) and won the FIS Copper World Cup against all the heavy hitters with the exception of McMorris, who did not compete. He also has Olympic experience, competing as a member of the 2010 Norwegian halfpipe team, and is a member of the triple cork club with a backside triple cork 1440. Look for podium-worthy riding from this Viking.
Even with Shaun White out of the game, there are still a couple of Americans who could make big moves in Sochi this week. Chas Guldemond, a slopestyle veteran with a string of big air and slopestyle podiums from every major event, has a brand-new backside triple cork 1440, and 20-year-old Sage Kotsenburg has a uniquely creative approach that impress judges and makes him a crowd favorite. (Check out Kotsenburg’s road to Sochi on TransWorld Snowboarding.)
Jamie Anderson (USA)
A rider known for being flawless and smooth, Anderson is easily the gold-medal favorite in Sochi. She has a rock-solid bag of tricks that lands her on the podium at nearly every event, usually nabbing first place with her first run. Plan on seeing a brand-new Cab 900 from this tree-hugger—reportedly a pre-game ritual for her—in the finals.
Silje Norendal (NOR)
Solid rail riding and the ability to spin in all four directions has helped Norendal nab back-to-back X Games Women's Snowboard Slopestyle gold medals (Tignes 2013, Aspen 2014) and has put her in the mix for Olympic gold. Look for a flawless frontside rodeo 720 and a Cab 720 in her Olympic debut.
Spencer O'Brien (CAN)
A solid rider known for stepping it up and always opting for the bigger jump line, O'Brien is one of the more aggressive riders in the pack. With a frontside 720- backside 720 combo and 900 potential, expect the 26-year-old to land somewhere near the top of the podium.
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