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There will be a lot more skiing coming out of Sochi during the next winter Olympics. On Monday, the International Olympic Committee decided that ski slopestyle will be included in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
After announcing in April that ski halfpipe and women’s ski jumping would become Olympic events at Sochi, the IOC said they needed more time to assess the feasibility of hosting slopestyle. “There is still a team that is going to make some inspections in Sochi and for some it’s going to be a final decision, for some pending the results of the technical study,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said at a press conference in April.
Since then, the IOC has conducted a feasibility study and a team from FIS, who will be designing the course, went to Sochi to survey the site. The official announcement was made on Monday, at the 123rd IOC session in Durban, South Africa.
Unlike halfpipe, where athletes and advocates pushed for years to make the sport an Olympic event, the decision to include slopestyle was seeded by the IOC after seeing how popular and progressive international slopestyle competition had become. “We [the USSA] had put forward a proposal to FIS and the IOC that slope for snowboard be considered for 2014, and the IOC came back after seeing the high level of competition at the Jr. Worlds in New Zealand last summer and said, ‘have you thought about slopestyle skiing?’ It was cool that they were thinking progressively; that was pretty encouraging,” said Jeremy Forester, the U.S. Freeskiing Program Director.
According to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, the decision to include slope is part of an IOC push to make the Olympics more relevant to a younger audience. “The IOC’s decision to add slopestyle to the Olympics recognizes the millions of youth who are already participating in the sport in terrain parks around the world,” said USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt in a press release. “It will have a very positive impact on the sport including our U.S. Snowboarding and U.S. Freeskiing programs.”
Although there has been concern that Olympic inclusion will dull slopestyle’s creativity, the athletes who are most likely to be named to their national teams seem enthusiastic about the decision.
Kaya Turski announced on Twitter that she’s excited to represent Canada, and Tom Wallisch told the USSA he wanted to be involved as well. “I couldn’t be more excited about the IOC’s decision. I’ve always dreamt of skiing for the USA at the Olympics, and now we finally have the opportunity. This is a huge moment for our sport,” he said.