The Dew Tour Mountain Championships are underway at Breckenridge, Colorado, and many view the event as an Olympic preview of sorts.
Figuring most prominently in the spotlight, of course, is Shaun White.
How will the two-time snowboard superpipe Olympic gold medalist fare in the slopestyle competition, which will make its Olympic debut in Russia at the Sochi Games in February?
Also, who has the best chance at claiming the top spot on the podium in Sochi and preventing White, assuming White gets back into top slopestyle form and makes the U.S. team, from winning the first slopestyle gold medal to be offered at the Winter Olympics?
More will be known after Sunday’s slopestyle final at Breckenridge, and it’s worth noting that White posted a top qualifying score of 93.20 on Friday. Beforehand, he had told reporters that the Dew Tour would be his “coming out party” in slopestyle.
But regardless of how the Dew Tour event plays out, White will face serious competition in Sochi, and here’s a look at what many will regard as his top four challengers, with no disrespect intended toward Eric Willet, Peetu Piiroinen, etc.:
1. Mark McMorris, Canada
A slopestyle icon. Finished 11th in Friday’s Dew Tour qualifying, but he’ll be more focused at Sochi. McMorris struck gold in the last two years at the Winter X Games at Aspen, Colorado, and last year stomped a nearly perfect run, earning the highest score in slopestyle history: 98.00.
2. Sebastien Toutant, Canada
In March, Seb Toots edged close friend McMorris to win the gold medal at the X Games Tignes competition in France. Before McMorris began to dominate, Toutant won the gold at the 2011 Winter X Games at Aspen. At Tignes he won largely on the merit of a clean triple cork, an extremely difficult trick that probably will be required of the winners at Sochi. Toutant also stomped a Cab 1260. His score was 95. McMorris registered a 94.
3. Torstein Horgmo, Norway
Always goes huge and if there were a big-air competition at Sochi, he’d be favored. Horgmo struck gold at the 2013 Winter X Games in the snowboard big-air final, after becoming the first person to land a switch backside triple cork 1440 in competition. Among his slopestyle accomplishments are victories over Shaun White at Dew Tour events in 2009 and 2010. (White seemed to lose interest in slopestyle when he was focusing on superpipe before his first two Olympic competitions, in 2006 and 2010.)
4. Chas Guldemond, United States
Though the slopestyle competition at Sochi will be top-heavy with Canadians and Europeans, Guldemond is one of the top U.S. hopes, besides White. He finished second at last year’s Dew Tour Mountain Championships, and won the gold at a Grand Prix event last winter at Copper Mountain. Guldemond finished fifth in Dew Tour qualifying on Friday. Fellow American Eric Willet had the second-best qualifying run.
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