Since American Jamie Anderson, came busting onto the snowboard slopestyle scene 10 years ago, she's been the one to watch. At just 15 years old, she walked away with her first X Games medal, a bronze, and has been kicking ass and taking names ever since, collecting seven more X Games medals (four of them gold) along with a handful of World Snowboard Tour titles. Now, at 23, she's still the major focus as slopestyle continues its Olympic debut in Sochi, Russia.
While Anderson is by far the most consistent rider in the field, generally putting up a podium-worthy run right out of the gate, she has a few notable chargers nipping at her heels. In the Olympic qualification round in Sochi on Thursday, Anderson was outdone in her heat by relative newbie Anna Gasser (AUS), who bested Anderson with the highest score of the day, a 95.50. And at last month's X Games, Silje Norendal (NOR) snagged Anderson's shoo-in gold with a technical rail section and a frontside 720 rodeo.
But Anderson—a home-schooled South Lake Tahoe, California, native—seems to take everything in stride with an attitude of gratitude.
“I have so much gratitude. I think the older I get, the more I appreciate the amazing life I have and all the blessings and opportunities that have come my way,” Anderson told Aspen Daily News earlier this year.
Anderson, known to hug trees and perform yoga moves right before her run, has been taking a different approach than most of the Winter Gamess-bound riders. While the men’s and women’s events are the first appearances for snowboard slopestyle on the Olympic stage, the snowboarding community is no stranger to the power of Olympic fame. The sport went from relative obscurity in the 1998 Nagano Winter Games to the main stage of the Olympic arena in just two Olympic cycles. Through the juggernaut success and fame of Shaun White, riders these days know the sway of that Olympic spotlight, and when the announcement of slopestyle being added to the Olympic roster hit, riders started altering their career trajectories, picking up coaches and gym-bound training programs that weren't in place in the pre-Olympic era.
But Anderson, the clear gold-medal favorite for Sunday, remains one of the few top riders without a coach.
This summer, Anderson’s last major training opportunity before the Games was spent like all the rest: with her focus on “morning medicine” walks, meditation, and yoga. "I was thinking about not drinking, and not going out, and not connecting with cute boys," Anderson told ESPN, "and they [Olympic halfpipe riders Hannah Teter and Elena Hight] were like, ‘Don't go change your whole life for it. You still have to have fun and live for the moment.'”
Which is advice that seems to be working for Anderson, who has continued her podium streak this entire season, falling short of the top three only once this season, at the Copper Mountain, Colorado, Grand Prix.
So as the Olympic pressure comes to a head in Sunday's final, look to a cool, calm, meditative Anderson deep in the forest of Rosa Khutor, hugging some trees before making history in women’s slopestyle's Olympic debut.
The women’s snowboard slopestyle semifinals begin at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Sochi time, followed at 1:15 p.m. local time with the final medal event. Find out where to watch on nbcolympics.com.
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