When the snow settled Saturday night in Park City, Utah, 11 athletes from slopestyle and halfpipe skiing were officially heading to Sochi to represent the red, white, and blue. These were the first-ever Olympic selections in the new disciplines, and competitors took it to the wire in one of the most exciting weekends of competition in recent memory.
Park City hosted two qualifier events last weekend to round out the number of Olympic qualifiers for the U.S. Team at five. Action started in December at Breckenridge, Colorado, then stopped at Copper Mountain, Colorado, before returning to Breckenridge and then wrapping up in Park City with two competitions in one weekend.
The U.S. was allocated four spots for both men and women in slopestyle and halfpipe skiing. Initially, three spots for each discipline would have been awarded to the top points finishers, with a fourth left up to the coaches, providing a bit of a buffer for star athletes who may have suffered early injuries or were battling similar variables.
However, with injuries plaguing the qualifying rounds and weather throwing a wrench in competitions such as the second leg of the Breckenridge qualifiers, the clear-cut formula became a little messier. While men's and women's halfpipe and men's slopestyle had only one slot left, women's slopestyle failed to have a third skier separate herself from the field, leaving a second coaches' decision on the table.
An announcement Tuesday cleared up all speculations as USSA finalized its rosters, adding five more skiers to bring the final number headed to Sochi to 16. Late additions included Torin Yater-Wallace, an early favorite for the Olympic halfpipe before sustaining two collapsed lungs just less than a month ago. Joss Christensen snagged the final slopestyle spot on the men's side after a win in the final qualifying competition.
Christensen's inclusion meant the end of Tom Wallisch's road to Sochi—a huge surprise, considering Wallisch's high competition rankings in recent years.
Other surprises included the inclusion of two relative unknowns barely old enough to have their learner’s permits: Maggie Voisin and Julia Krass. Krass won the final qualifier last weekend in Park City and now has her bags packed for Sochi.
Now that the final selection process is complete, here are the men and women who will represent the Stars and Stripes in the pipe and park at this year's Olympic Games.
The rundown: The golden boy of U.S. halfpipe skiing, Wise has dominated the pipe scene in recent years, including a strong showing during the qualifying stages. Wise double-corked his way onto the U.S. squad during the second Breckenridge stop earlier this month.
Aaron says: "I went down and did my run and when it came down to it I ended up in second place, securing my spot for Sochi. I could not be more stoked right now. I'm speechless."
The rundown: Blunck won the first Olympic qualifier and then battled to second place in the last to vault him into a Sochi roster spot.
Lyman says: "I can’t believe I landed on top! I went to the top and the only thing I could do was focus. It’s so surreal. I can’t even believe that this is going on right now."
The rundown: The ultimate dark horse, this U.S. Team rookie came out of nowhere to get to Sochi with a third-place finish on Jan. 18 and a Games–slot-clinching victory on Jan. 19, the final day of competition.
The rundown: Aspen, Colorado's phenom has been one of the most consistent halfpipe competitors in the sport since making his X Games debut three years ago. Yater-Wallace seemed unstoppable and an early favorite for the Olympic podium before suffering not one, but two collapsed lungs this December. If he's healthy, look for the teenager to make some waves.
The rundown: The South Lake Tahoe, California, native has used a pair of 900s to elevate herself above the competition, earning her place on the Sochi squad back at the second Breckenridge stop.
The rundown: Sigourney returned from an ACL tear in the nick of time this season, competing strong throughout qualifiers before winning the first Park City halfpipe event. The win was enough to see the California native through to Sochi.
The rundown: Perhaps one of the most unique stories in the field, VanLaanen battled Lyme disease for years and had to consider giving up competing. Determined, however, VanLaanen has had a stellar 2014 and won the final Park City qualifier to make it to her first Olympics.
The rundown: Drew made her World Cup debut this summer in New Zealand and now finds herself heading to the biggest stage in freeskiing. Not too shabby.
The rundown: Goepper has consistently upped his game over the past few seasons, and the qualifications served as prime example. The Indiana native was the first American freeskier to qualify for the Olympics, after winning the Copper stop back in December and the first qualifier at Breckenridge.
Bobby says: "The pressure is intense and there is so much on the line. Even though you say you want to cruise and have fun, it’s just gnarly. It’s an amazing opportunity and the fact that we had such amazing weather [in Park City, Utah] is great. I’m honored to go represent the USA and do the thing I love."
The rundown: Brown has been on the Olympic radar for a while, and he sealed his bid after a second-place finish in the first of two Park City slopestyle stops. Brown was a dominant force in X Games competitions before going down with two broken ankles in 2012, but battled back to head to freeskiing's biggest stage.
The rundown: Christensen was relatively consistent throughout qualifying, but really put things together in the final event last weekend, topping a stacked podium and proving that he might have what it takes to shake things up in Russia.
The rundown: Though he wasn't able to qualify in halfpipe and slopestyle, Kenworthy earned a trip to the Games with an inspired weekend of park riding, using a second-place finish in the final qualifier to grab the third U.S. slopestyle berth.
Devin says: “I never thought I would go to Sochi. I always dreamed of it, but never thought it would happen like this. I can’t wait to go there and represent the USA and bring home another podium for us.”
The rundown: Logan stamped her return to competition after a lengthy ACL injury with a win in her first World Cup event, then continued to ski strong, earning a place on the Olympic squad with a win in last Friday's Grand Prix.
The rundown: At age 31, Herman is the oldest U.S. ski slopestyle competitor headed to Sochi, but she's hoping her ability to step up on the big stage shines through once again as she takes on the Olympic Games.
The rundown: Most 15-year-olds are studying for high school history midterms in February, but Voisin will be looking to make history as she becomes the youngest American in this year's Olympics and the youngest U.S. Team member nominated since 1972.
The rundown: Not much older than Voisin, Krass came out of nowhere to take the final spot on the Olympic slopestyle roster, winning the final women's slope event in Park City. Though relatively unproven, the New Hampshire native will look to ride her momentum into the Games this February.
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