Olympic snowboarding commentator and 1998 Olympic snowboarding team member Todd Richards knows the ins and outs of snowboard competition and is an authority on what it takes reach the podium. With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, quickly approaching, it's the perfect time to pick Todd's brain and find out what the athletes are doing to prepare, and what we can expect at the upcoming Games. Here’s what he had to say, in his words:
1. Rumor has it Shaun White has a triple cork pretty much locked in, and that is insane. Apparently, he went to Australia and made a super secret halfpipe to train in and he's been getting a ton of new tricks wired. I've heard about him doing fakie-1440s and a bunch of other double cork variations that are going to be really gnarly. Shaun is going in to Sochi super focused and with a lot of new tricks, which could spell disaster for his competition's hopes of getting the gold.
2. Ayumu Hirano from Japan is incredible and probably has the best chance of anyone to defeat Shaun White in the halfpipe. He got second at the U.S. Open and everyone, including me, is thinking he's definitely one to watch at Sochi.
3. The debut of Slopestyle is probably going to be as exciting if not more than the halfpipe events. Slopestyle is more akin to the kind of snowboarding that normal people do--basically park riding with an overall different kind of personality than the halfpipe. It’s not super jockish, but still taking the riding very seriously. Mark McMorris from Canada is my top pick, but you can't count out Shaun White--he really wants the gold in slopestyle.
4. As far as technology and equipment at Sochi goes, the boards will stay similar to last year, but everyone will have a GoPro strapped to them at some point. The viewers will really get a good feel for what it's like to ride these pipes and courses. Boots, boards, and outerwear will be what people feel comfortable with. Boards, boots, outwear, and all that equipment will all be the latest from each company, but as far as technology goes, I doubt we'll see people trying out anything brand new and unproven--the riders will be using what's comfortable for them and leave the testing for after the Olympics.
5. The conditions we're looking at for Sochi could be tricky. Sochi is located in a region with very similar weather to Vancouver, British Columbia, and if you remember the 2010 Vancouver Games, you'll no doubt recall the snow being hit or miss. I'm thinking it will be another warm Olympics, but hopefully there won't be any cancellations.
6. Fan-wise, Sochi is for the diehards. The actual Olympic event sites are pretty hard to get to, from what I've heard. It's really expensive, especially if you're coming from the U.S., and I think it's going to be fairly hard to get tickets, too. That being said, I think the crowds at Sochi events will be passionate, but not that big. Lots of media for all the events, obviously--but smaller crowds than Vancouver. I could be wrong, but Sochi is off the beaten path.
Todd's medal picks
More Winter Olympics stories on GrindTV