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The U.S. Freestyle Ski Team will have incredible podium potential at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Overall, 10 sets of medals will be awarded in freestyle skiing, which includes five events for men and women – aerials, moguls, halfpipe, slopestyle and skicross.
At the Sochi Games, freestyle skiing events will be held at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, located west of the Rosa Khutor Plateau in the mountain cluster. The 8,000-seat facility was commissioned in 2012 for test competitions and will serve as a permanent venue for world-class events following the Games.
The U.S. women’s aerials team will turn to Ashley Caldwell for leadership and guidance. Seeking her second Olympic berth, Caldwell is an innovator for U.S. aerial athletes, and is all about pushing the envelope for women's aerials. Her knee injury has only made her more driven and determined as the Games approach. Also looking to return to the Olympic stage is 16-year veteran Emily Cook, who was on top of the world cup podium in 2011.
On the men’s side, Dylan Ferguson utilizes a unique mix of traditional aerials with new-age freeskiing technique; his big air and tight twists are leading the way for the next generation of men's aerials athletes. Ferguson, along with fellow Olympic veteran Scotty Bahrke, are likely to be the leaders for Team USA in aerials.
The U.S. moguls team will enter the Sochi Games as one of the strongest in the world. Team USA proved its mettle by winning the 2012 Nations Cup title and is anchored by defending Olympic champion Hannah Kearney and 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Bryon Wilson. The team also features depth from world cup podium finishers Heather McPhie, Pat Deneen, Jeremy Cota and Wilson’s younger brother, Bradley Wilson.
The remaining events – halfpipe, slopestyle and skicross – collectively make up the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Assocation’s freeskiing discipline. Both halfpipe and slopestyle will be making their debut in Sochi, while skicross was introduced at the Vancouver Games. The U.S. continues to lead the freeskiing charge with new tricks and combinations at nearly every major competition.
Headlining the U.S. contingent in the halfpipe will likely be Devin Logan, Maddie Bowman and David Wise. Also poised to represent Team USA are slopestyle veterans Bobby Brown and Tom Wallisch, as well as rising star Emilia Wint, who is known for her progressive tricks.
In skicross, Team USA will look to a strong crop of Olympic hopefuls, including four-time world cup medalist John Teller and world cup standout Joe Swensson. X Games star Langley McNeal is poised to headline an all-star cast of U.S. female competitors in Sochi.
- The U.S. aerials team is successful because of its strong athletic pipeline. The Elite Aerial Development Program is spearheaded by Olympic medalist and Aerial Coach Eric Bergoust. The program has a strong mix of veterans and up-and-comers propelling the sport.
- In July 2011, Team USA lost Olympic silver medalist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson. One of the world’s most innovative freestyle skiers, Peterson still holds the highest-scored jump ever to be recorded, which will never be broken with the new judging format. Team USA continues to rally behind his inspiration.
- Emily Cook has been a member of the U.S. aerials squad for the last 15 years. Over her career, the seasoned veteran has developed a special mentor relationship with the young and talented Ashley Caldwell.
- Hannah Kearney is the most successful world cup moguls athlete of all time. The defending Olympic champion won 16-consecutive races during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. She returned to world cup competition midway through the 2013 campaign after recovering from a severe training crash in Europe.
- Heather McPhie has the ability to perform one of the highest degrees of difficulty in the moguls world. She is working toward perfecting her D-spin, which could make her an unstoppable force in Sochi. She opened the 2013 season by sweeping her first two world cup events.
- Tom Wallisch is a self-made Internet star. It all began in 2007, when he entered the Superunknown contest that gave way to a film opportunity with Level 1 Productions. Growing up in Pittsburgh, the amount of snow and number of ski resorts for training was limited. Initially, he used garbage can lids to slide on rails when there was no snow. Wallisch has since led the charge for new and unique rail combinations, making a long-lasting impact on the freesking industry. He is sometimes called the “pretzel king” – a nod to his trademark trick.
- Devin Logan grew up in Long Island, N.Y., before moving to West Dover, Vt. When she was in middle school, Logan’s mother put her in the boy’s football league, because she did not want her daughter to be a cheerleader. Logan – the youngest of five children – noticed her two older brothers were competing in moguls and she decided to try ski racing; but eventually her brothers persuaded her to compete in moguls instead. Ironically, she lived and skied in the same town where Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark grew up.
- Bobby Brown grew up skiing at some of the best resorts in the world. In his early years, he competed in the Team Summit Mogul Program, but it was not long before his true talent emerged in the big jumps. Fast forward five years and he is now a leading slopestyle specialist. He gained notoriety after winning both the slopestyle and big air events at the X Games in 2010, and recently picked up his second gold medal in the X Games big air competition in January.
- John Teller is an internationally known skicross athlete with an impressive resume that has attracted many sponsors, including Red Bull. When he is not competing, he works as a mechanic for his family business, Mammoth Chevron.
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Bahrke began his career as a triple threat, competing in moguls, aerials and freeskiing events through 2005. Now, after seven seasons competing in aerials on the world cup tour, Bahrke captured his first victory in Kreischberg, Austria, which boosted him to a career-high No. 11 ranking in the world cup standings. His sister, Shannon Bahrke, is a two-time Olympic moguls medalist.
Bowman entered the halfpipe scene as a high school senior in 2011. At her X Games debut, she took home the silver medal, followed by an impressive win at the AFP World Championships and her second Dew Tour victory. The 19-year-old recently captured her second X Games gold medal and will look to defend her AFP title later this season. Last fall, she started classes at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.
At 16 years old and after just three years of aerials training, Caldwell captured the attention of aerialists across the globe when she claimed top-15 results in her first three world cup competitions in 2010. She then placed 10th at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games before finishing second at the 2010 U.S. National Championships – a feat she repeated in 2011. With all four world cup competitions under her belt, she earned two podium finishes during the 2011 season, including a victory in her beloved hometown of Lake Placid, N.Y.
With five X Games medals, one silver FIS World Championships medal and multiple podium finishes in Dew Tour and AFP competitions, Carlson is one athlete to watch in the lead up to the Sochi Games. A slopestyle star, Carlson is constantly evolving the sport with new jumps and progressive tricks.
After making the 2002 U.S. Olympic Team, Cook suffered an injury that forced her to miss the Games and two world cup seasons. The five-time national aerials champion returned to competition in 2004 before making the world championship team in 2005. A year later, she reached her first Olympic Winter Games. The veteran continues to battle and will vie to earn a spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic roster.
The last four seasons have seen Deneen grow from 2008 FIS World Cup Rookie of the Year, to 2009 world champion, to riding a win at the U.S. Olympic Trials, to placing 19th in moguls at the Vancouver Games. He captured his first world cup victory in 2011 and added two more podiums before taking his first national title to close the season. He then closed the 2012 campaign with three-straight world cup dual moguls victories – good enough to secure a second-place ranking in the overall moguls and freestyle standings.
Dylan Ferguson qualified for the 2010 Games, but a severe case of appendicitis kept him from competing. A strong force in the freestyle skiing community, he had a breakout season in 2012 when he notched his first world cup aerials podium.
Kearney became the most decorated world cup skier in history after earning 16-conscutive victories during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The historic run eclipsed alpine legend Ingemar Stenmark’s record for the longest FIS World Cup win streak in all disciplines. The 2010 Olympic gold medalist won 11 of 13 world cup events during the 2012 campaign, while also defending her overall freestyle and moguls titles.
Growing up as the kid sister to a pair of brothers who were talented freeskiiers, Logan always wanted to be a part of the action. So it only seemed natural when she picked up halfpipe and slopestyle skiing. At age 15, she finished second in halfpipe at the national championships. Then during her first full season in 2011, the 17-year-old made her X Games debut in both halfpipe and slopestyle. She went on to collect her first X Games medal, earning bronze in the halfpipe at the European X Games. In 2012, she continued to leave her mark as one of the best female freeskiers, using dynamic tricks to capture 12 podium finishes – including two X Games medals and an AFP overall title.
McPhie – who landed her first world cup win just prior to the Vancouver Games – opened the 2013 season with a sweep of the first two world cup events. Her innovative style is known to produce some of the most difficult jumps of any female athlete in the world, including her signature D-spin. She became the first moguls athlete in history to secure a Red Bull sponsorship in 2012, when she earned four world cup podium finishes to rank fourth in the overall moguls standings.
Wallisch is on his way to becoming the winningest male in slopestyle skiing history. With four X Games medals, a U.S. Grand Prix title, a Dew Tour overall title and two AFP slopestyle titles to his credit, Wallisch is leaving his mark on the sport. A self-made Internet ski star from Pittsburgh, this prominent social media celebrity is also a student at the University of Utah, where he is just four credits shy of earning a degree in marketing.
Wilson gained notoriety in 2010 when he earned two second-place finishes to help earn a moguls spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. At the Vancouver Games, he capitalized on his newfound success by earning a bronze medal. After recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery, Wilson had a successful comeback year in 2012. He quickly returned to full strength and has already been on the world cup podium during the 2013 season.
Wise has the style, technicality and amplitude to compete on the highest level. In 2012, he brought home his first X Games gold medal and finished first at the U.S. Grand Prix, then earned his second X Games gold in early 2013. Wise also finds time to balance competition and spending time with his family. His wife, Alexandra Wise, and daughter, Nayeli Wise, are often at his competitions.
Yater-Wallace turned heads during the 2012 season by capturing his first X Games gold medal in Tignes, France; a bronze medal at the Aspen X Games; two Dew Tour podium-finishes; and the AFP halfpipe world title. His consistency continued into 2013, as he earned the silver medal in superpipe at the X Games. The multi-talented 16-year-old has also tested his skills in slopestyle competitions, proving that he is a dual threat after earning a podium finish at the Aspen/Snowmass Open and taking fourth place at the U.S. Grand Prix.
Athletes are eligible for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games if they earn one top-30 finish at a FIS World Cup or world championships event between July 1, 2012, and Jan. 19, 2014. Additionally, athletes must earn a minimum of 80 FIS points for halfpipe and skicross, and a minimum of 50 FIS points for slopestyle.
Team USA athletes are vying for 26 overall freestyle spots that are divided between halfpipe, slopestyle, skicross, moguls and aerials with a maximum quota of four starters in each discipline per gender. Aerial and moguls athletes may qualify for these slots through results on the FIS World Cup tour.
The Olympic selection criteria for freeskiing (halfpipe, slopestyle, skicross) will be approved in spring 2013. The 2013-14 U.S. Grand Prix will determine Olympic selection for freeskiing events.
||Sochi Test Event/FIS World Cup*
||Sochi Test Event/FIS World Cup^
||FIS World Championships
||U.S. Grand Prix*
||Copper Mountain, Colo.
||2014 U.S. Olympic Team announced^
||Lake Placid, N.Y.
||U.S. Grand Prix*
||Park City, Utah
|*Freeskiing only (halfpipe, slopestyle, skicross)
^Aerials and moguls only