Kelly versus Torah: Sochi 2014 women’s Olympic halfpipe outlook
When it comes to big spins and double corks, women's pipe riding has led the way over slopestyle. Back in 2002 Elena Hight landed the first 900 for a woman in the pipe and started linking nines back-to-back by 2008. She was also the first to land a double backside alley-oop rodeo in the pipe in 2013. Unfortunately Elena didn't make the US team this time around but her riding serves as a marker for how much more technical women's pipe riding is compared to slopestyle. Of the riders going to Sochi, US rider Kelly Clark laid down the first 1080 in a woman's contest in 2011 and now she's doing them into a Cab 720. Kelly wants to be the first woman to do back-to-back 1080s but so far she hasn't tried any in competition.
As with men's pipe the US has a strong women's team heading to Sochi including veteran Olympians Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter and newcomers Arielle Gold and Kaitlyn Farrington. The US has had two women on the podium at the both the Torino and Vancouver Olympics and the potential exists for a US sweep. Kelly is leading the charge for the US team with a record 59 wins in major pipe events since she started competing in 1999. Sochi will be her fourth time to the Olympics where she's delivered two podium performances so far: gold at Salt Lake City in 2002 and bronze at Vancouver in 2010. There is however, the problem of Aussie Torah Bright. Torah won gold at Vancouver and although she's been fairly low-key on the contest circuit she did emerge to beat Kelly at the 2013 Dew Tour. But Torah faces her own challenges as the first snowboarder to compete in pipe, slopestyle, and boardercross--like trying make that last bit of Vegemite cover all of your toast, she could end up spread too thin.
Torah’s winning run from the 2013 Dew Tour
Kelly’s second place run from the 2013 Dew Tour
We might not see any new tricks in women's halfpipe on February 12, but the level is already pretty damn high.
TWSNOW lands in Sochi on February 4. Stay tuned for full coverage of the slopestyle and halfpipe events, plus daily blogs.
Rider outlooks and potential downfalls coming soon.