The countdown to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games is officially under a year, and the race for snowboarders continues to heat up.
One of the lead-up events along the way begins Thursday at the 2017 FIS Snowboard World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain. The United States will send 28 athletes to compete in halfpipe, slopestyle, big air, snowboardcross, parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom.
Many snowboarders are coming off last week’s U.S. Open in Vail, Colorado, and X Games Norway, which continues through March 11, so not all of the top snowboarders in the United States will be competing the next week and a half in Spain. However, the U.S. continent still brings star power — and plenty of opportunity for podium finishes.
Here’s a look at some of the storylines to follow at the world championships.
Will Lindsey Jacobellis continue her dominance at world championships?
Jacobellis has competed in four world championships, and she’s won gold in women’s snowboardcross each time. The three-time Olympian has also won 10 gold medals at the Winter X Games, and she recently took some time off to surf.
Jacobellis, who is slated to carry the flag for Team USA at the opening ceremony, will be a favorite to win gold again in the women’s snowboardcross.
Faye Gulini, a two-time Olympian who finished fourth in Sochi, and 23-year-old Rosie Mancari round out the women’s snowboardcross team.
Olympic experience abounds in men’s snowboardcross
Alex Deibold won a bronze medal in Sochi, making Team USA three-for-three in podium finishes in men’s snowboardcross since the discipline debuted at the Torino 2006 Winter Games.
He’s joined in Spain by two-time Olympian Nick Baumgartner, who finished third at a world cup last week, and three-time Olympian Nate Holland, who has seven X Games snowboardcross titles to his name.
However, it’s their teammate Hagen Kearney who might be coming in the hottest. He is the top American at fifth in the world cup standings, and he won the season opener in December in Montafon, Austria.
Slopestyle brings the stars, too
Speaking of star power, Karly Shorr finished sixth in women’s slopestyle at the Sochi Games, while Jessika Jenson was 13th and Ty Walker 14th. All three will compete in Spain, and they’ll do so alongside Kirra Kotsenburg, whose brother Sage Kotsenburg won the Olympic gold medal men’s slopestyle snowboarding in 2014.
The U.S. men’s slopestyle team features up-and-comers Chris Corning, Lyon Farrell, Judd Henkes and Dylan Thomas. Corning burst onto the scene and won the slopestyle world cup title in 2016. He was a junior world champion in both slopestyle and big air last year as well.
Arielle Gold leads the halfpipe corps
Gold, a 2012 Youth Olympic medalist and 2014 Olympian, leads the U.S. halfpipe team. The 20-year-old Coloradan already has a halfpipe world title from 2013 and won last year’s Laax Open, a prestigious event in Switzerland.
Gold leads of a group of halfpipe boarders that includes Noelle Edwards, Zoe Kalapos and Maddie Mastro, as well as 2010 Olympian Louie Vito, Chase Blackwell, Toby Miller and Ryan Wachendorfer.
Are you ready for big air?
Big air snowboarding makes its Olympic debut in 2018, and fans can get a preview in Spain. Of those on the U.S. roster, Karly Shorr is the top ranked woman at ninth, while Chris Corning is the top-ranked man at eighth.
Californian millennial movement
Three California kids are the only ones on the American roster born in this millennium, and they are rising up the ranks. Maddie Mastro is the second youngest, born Feb. 20, 2000, just six days after fellow halfpipe boarder Toby Miller. The youngest is slopestyler Judd Henkes, who was born in 2001 and is only 15 heading into these world championships.
Mastro climbed the podium last week after finishing third for the women at the U.S. Open. She scored a 78.25 on her second run consisting of: frontside 540 stalefish, backside stalefish, crippler, backside 540 stalefish, frontside 720 indy, Haakonflip, frontside air.
Miller, of Truckee, placed ninth at his first world cup appearance in 2016 and took the silver medal at the 2015 junior world championships. Henkes, from the beach town of La Jolla, made the halfpipe final at the 2016 U.S. Open last year at age 14.
Alpine snowboarders from Steamboat Springs to Spain
All five alpine athletes work out with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club in Colorado, including Olympian Justin Reiter and Michael Trapp, who finished in the top 10 at two of the most recent world cup parallel giant slaloms. Robert Burns, Maggie Carrigan and AJ Muss also compete for the Colorado club team.
Scott McDonald has 18 years experience in sports reporting. He was named the State Sports Writer of the Year in 2014 by the Texas High School Coaches Association. McDonald is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.