Women's ski halfpipe is a game of inches. All of the ladies have acquired a bag full of tricks, but the Olympic competition will really come down to who is able to perform those select maneuvers best. In fact, the tricks themselves may not be the ultimate decider in this event, as amplitude—freeskiing's cool word for height—grabs, and number of tricks per run will all factor heavily into final standings.
That being said, there are a few tricks that could change the competition drastically. We'll have to see who comes out to play this year, but the women of 2014 could bring some serious fireworks. Here's what to look for in women's Olympic halfpipe skiing.
How to: Sometimes it isn't one trick that wins the day, but a pair of tricks. Such is the case with the back-to-back 900s, two aerial maneuvers that require two and a half spins each. That's five spins in two hits. I'm getting dizzy just thinking about it.
See it in Sochi: American Maddie Bowman has been unstoppable of late, and the back-to-back 9s have definitely helped. Unlike some of her competitors, Bowman has figured out how to keep her speed high enough to complete both spins mid-run—an impressive feat that has her favored for gold in Sochi.
How to: Taking off forward, skiers must spin three and a half rotations before landing forward. This trick requires lots of air time and is usually seen at the beginning of a halfpipe run.
See it in Sochi: In 2013, X Games rookie Annalisa Drew decided to make her mark on the competition by throwing the first-ever 1260 in the women's competition. She put the trick to her feet and then washed out, disqualifying her from medal contention but putting the women's halfpipe field on notice. Now making her Olympic debut, Drew may return to the trick that turned heads a year ago.
How to: Thrown at the end of a run, the 1080 requires skiers to spin three full rotations and land backward (switch) down the halfpipe. Blind landings are terrifying, but gold medals more than make up for the fear.
See it in Sochi: Unlike the 1260, this trick has been landed, first by the late Sarah Burke in X Games competition and then by 2010 X Games gold medalist Jen Hudak. Recently there haven't been many 1080 attempts (though gold-medal favorite Maddie Bowman has it in her arsenal), but it is a very attainable maneuver that could vault skiers onto the first-ever Olympic women’s ski pipe podium.
Women's ski halfpipe qualifiers begin at 6:30 p.m. Sochi time on Thursday, with the medal event directly following. Access the viewer's guide at NBCOlympics.com.
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