As we get set to dive into snowboarding’s Big Air debut at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, we caught up with another 17-year-old snowboarder from the U.S. team that looks to top the podium. Hailey Langland, from San Clemente, California, has won gold in the event at X Games before, and is part of the women that are pushing snowboarding to new heights (literally) with trick progression in Big Air and Slopestyle, all while keeping the whole thing stylish. Read on for Hailey’s thoughts on athlete village, the jump, and the place of snowboarding in Olympics, as well as her possible plans if she takes home the gold.
Hi Hailey! PHOTO: Mark Clavin
So how is it being a first time Olympian before the age of 18?
It's insane. It's so against the grain compared to other kids my age. I'm always seeing things being posted like "Senior prom with my faves." And I'm sitting at an international terminal somewhere writing, "Going to my first Winter Olympics with my best friends."
Enjoying the athlete village?
I am! Its cool to be staying with all the other countries, and trading pins with other athletes. I just wish there were more things to do, and it wasn't so cold.
What do you like more, slope or big air?
Slope. Slope. Slope.
Hailey putting the style in slopestyle. PHOTO: Mark Clavin
How was practice?
Day 1 practice for big air was great! Everyone was getting into the swing of things and seem to really like the jump, which is a very rare occasion.
Thoughts on the jump/landing?
To be honest, I think it's one of the best jumps I've hit all season. It isn't scary big or poppy. It's smooth, a good size, and has plenty of landing if you want to go bigger. I think it will be a great showing for the men and women competing.
From the top of the drop. PHOTO: Mark Clavin
Were you a fan of the Olympics before?
Definitely! I feel like I've known about the Olympics since I knew how to walk. Although, I know I was definitely more into watching the Summer Olympics growing up. I loved watching soccer, swimming, and track. But only because the only event I really cared about [slopestyle] wasn't in the Winter Olympics until 2014.
Does the arena feel different with the rings overshadowing it?
It is very different compared to any contest I've ever done. Being anywhere around this time, I've realized how prestigious and important the Olympics are. There's ads and banners everywhere. I think being here makes me more proud of the journey that I've had just trying to get here.
The venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics Big Air debut. PHOTO: Mark Clavin
What do you think about snowboarding in the Olympics?
I think its great. Snowboarding needs the exposure, a lot of people still don't understand it like we do. The Olympics is a great way for us to show off our sport. Why we love it, and why after so many years, we continue to do it. It's the most fun sport in the Winter Olympics, in my opinion.
You have already won x games gold in big air, what would it mean to medal in South Korea?
To go home with a medal would be crazy. It would definitely help settle some nerves from last week in slope. But it would also probably mean I could retire a few years earlier in the future, haha.
What would you do if you retired early?
I have no idea haha, I’d love to write for a mag and travel, surf, snowboard… all of it!
Any tricks we can plan on seeing from you/ the other riders?
From me everything is a secret, even from myself. But you could probably expect a few double corks from the chicks, and a lot of heavy spinning from the guys. I hope to see some style in the mix too.
Good luck Hailey!