The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are around the proverbial corner, and with them is the debut of a few exciting new disciplines: slopestyle and halfpipe skiing. For those who haven't tuned in yet, on Saturday and Sunday at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado, we got a preview of what we have to look forward to in the halfpipe. In the midst of an American female sweep and David Wise's continued dominance, we're highlighting a few athletes who you need to know before Sochi. They may not do a fantasy draft for the Olympics, but here are six U.S. athletes that need to be on your team.
This 20-year-old South Lake Tahoe, California, product is catching fire at just the right time, winning the first stop of the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships after taking gold at last year's Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. Bowman consistently throws two 900s into her run, a trick that helps set her apart from the rest of the halfpipe field. With the Dew Tour win, Bowman grabbed important points in the season's first Olympic qualifier.
VanLaanen has one of the more interesting stories in the women's halfpipe field. After suffering from Lyme disease for 17 years, Angeli skied an impressive run to grab second at the first stop of the Dew Tour. The disease took her off the world radar in recent years, and she was passed up in the first selections for the U.S. Freeskiing team. Still, she has competed impressively of late and is looking to put her own stamp on Sochi.
Sigourney was on the top of her game in 2012, landing the first 1080 in women's ski competition and winning the bronze at X Games. Then she went down hard, tearing her ACL at the European X Games and putting her competitive future in doubt. Sigourney put that doubt to bed recently, finishing third at the first stop of the Dew Tour and completing the American sweep. The Tahoe native lives in Park City, Utah, honing her skills on the best terrain parks and halfpipe in skiing and training at the U.S. Team's Center of Excellence.
Mr. David Wise is America's halfpipe golden boy, winning major competition after major competition on his road to halfpipe skiing's first Olympics. Wise added a Dew Tour win in Breckenridge to a laundry list of other accolades that includes two X Games golds and a 2013 FIS world championship. Wise, who is also a new father and husband, is changing the face of freeskiing from a fringe action sport to an Olympic display of athleticism and skill combining several double corked spins on his way down the halfpipe and jumping nearly 20 feet out of the stunt ditch.
Aspen's Yater-Wallace is halfpipe's young phenom, and the 18-year-old had a rough Dew Tour stop in Breckenridge. But don't count him out just yet. The six-time X Games medalist was recovering from a collapsed lung before sustaining a chest injury during the Dew Tour prelims. Depending on the diagnosis, Yater-Wallace is the second half of the U.S. Team's one-two halfpipe punch, and will be a major player in the medal chase in Sochi. Send out your positive vibes to this young ripper.
One storyline that you need to keep your eye on is that of Simon Dumont. The former king of halfpipe skiing is now a little bit older and a little more beat up than his early days, and is up against a talented field of U.S. skiers looking for a spot in Sochi. In many ways Dumont was the catalyst for the sport's inclusion into the Olympics and now finds himself fighting for an Olympic berth. Needless to say, the tension is palpable, and you can't help but root for the guy. Don't sleep on Dumont; he might just have a few more tricks up his jacket.
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