Freestyle Skiing Preview

In the Olympic debut of halfpipe and slopestyle skiing in 2014, the U.S. dominated, capturing three of the four medals available in those disciplines. Iconic results include the U.S. men’s slopestyle podium sweep by Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper, and the halfpipe gold-medal sweep by Maddie Bowman and David Wise. Team USA is capable of attaining, even building upon, that level of success in PyeongChang.

Christensen, Kenworthy, Goepper, Devin Logan and the entire U.S. team from the Sochi Games are all strong contenders for a second Olympic appearance in 2018. Although their silver medals from Sochi are in slopestyle, Kenworthy and Logan are extremely competitive in halfpipe as well. After suffering injuries leading up to and during the Sochi Games, Maggie Voisin and Torin Yater-Wallace are healthy and hungry for top Olympic results. Bowman and Wise will both be making another run to defend their Olympic titles, while Annalisa Drew, who performs one of the most difficult runs in women’s halfpipe, will look to make the U.S. team and improve on her ninth-place finish from 2014.

In skicross, Tania Prymak has recently emerged as a strong force for Team USA, netting three top-10 finishes in the first events of the 2016-17 season.

With veterans such as Hannah Kearney and Emily Cook retired from the sport, the U.S. has seen a new era of moguls and aerials specialists emerge. The U.S. had four top-10 finishes and a bronze medal from Kearney in Sochi. Heading into the PyeongChang Olympics, there is much potential to build on that success.

The U.S. aerials team has also seen a tremendous amount of success leading up to 2018. Ashley Caldwell continues to be a dominate force on the women’s world cup circuit, performing triple flips and landing multiple podium appearances en route to the overall world cup title in 2016 and a world championship gold medal in 2017. Kiley McKinnon and Sochi 2014 teammate Mac Bohonnon also saw success during the 2015 season, bringing home both the women’s and men’s overall titles for the first time since 1995. Recently, the brother duo of Jon and Chris Lillis have been making waves. At age 17, Chris Lillis became the youngest man ever to win an aerials world cup, winning the final event of the 2016 season. Jon Lillis shared the podium with Caldwell at the 2017 FIS World Championships, also taking home the gold.

On the moguls side, the U.S. has seen top results from a myriad of athletes, demonstrating depth and a high level of talent in both the men’s and women’s divisions. A familiar face heading into the PyeongChang Olympics is Brad Wilson, who, after suffering a knee injury in 2014, returned to the world cup circuit late during the 2015-16 season, surprising everyone with a comeback win. Mainer Troy Murphy is also a strong contender with a high degree of difficulty air package and a fifth-place finish at the 2017 test event. On the women’s team, Morgan Schild and Jaelin Kauf have established themselves as strong, consistent skiers backed by a talented group of athletes who are all capable of Olympic success.

Storylines

  • Skiing with a clear mind and no secrets, Gus Kenworthy will be a strong candidate for an Olympic medal once again – in halfpipe, slopestyle or both. He has topped the overall Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) rankings for six consecutive seasons and twice medaled at the 2016 X Games in halfpipe and slopestyle.

  • Sochi veterans Gus Kenworthy, Joss Christensen, Nick Goepper and Devin Logan are all Olympic medalists looking for repeat podium performances in PyeongChang. Experience with the pressure and production value of the Olympics will be on their side as they look to defend their titles.

  • After pushing through a string of unlucky injuries to land a spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team, Torin Yater-Wallace fell short and missed the Olympic finals in halfpipe skiing. He recovered, and was poised to reclaim his halfpipe dominance in 2015-16. But in November 2015, he became ill, suffering from an infection caused by an abscess in his liver that filled his lungs with fluid. The infection could have killed him, but luckily he recovered and was cleared to ski in January.

  • As the poster child for women’s halfpipe skiing, Maddie Bowman has been in the limelight regarding the slow pace of progression in the sport. But her runs are still some of the most technically difficult in women’s competition and she continues to dominate the field.

  • With a strict workout routine, training schedule and family to take care of, David Wise may be one of the hardest working athletes in his sport. His wife, Alexandra, and daughter, Nayeli, were in the crowd to watch him win gold at the Sochi Olympics. His son, Malachi, born just after the Sochi Games, will have the opportunity to see his father defend his title should Wise make the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team.

  • Tania Prymak began her skiing career as an alpine ski racer at Hidden Valley, New Jersey. She attended Burke Mountain Academy and was attending a team camp at Mount Hood, Oregon, when she saw a skicross team training. She instantly knew that skicross was what she wanted to do, and has dedicated herself to becoming Team USA’s top skicross athlete ever since.

  • Aerial athletes and brothers Chris Lillis and Jon Lillis (also known as Team Lillis) are aiming to take the PyeongChang Winter Olympics by storm. As two of the top athletes on the team, Chris and Jon dream of landing on the Olympic podium together.

  • Brad Wilson’s older brother, Bryon, who won the Olympic bronze medal in 2010, is also planning to make a run for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team. Bryon has been an inspiration to Brad and, like the Lillis brothers, together they are looking to make the 2018 Olympics a family affair.

  • Since he started coaching in 2010, Todd Ossian has helped transformed the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team’s aerials program. Through his leadership and guidance, the U.S. team has been the top team in the world for the past two seasons. The U.S. expects this trend to continue during the 2016-17 season and leading in to the PyeongChang Games.

  • Ten different athletes accounted for the 13 podiums earned by U.S. freestyle skiers during the 2015-16 season, demonstrating a high level of depth and podium potential across both aerials and moguls.

Athletes To Watch

Maddie Bowman
After winning gold in her sport’s debut at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Bowman (South Lake Tahoe, California) is poised to defend her title. She’s coming off a successful 2015-16 season with an X Games bronze medal and two wins on the world cup tour.

Ashley Caldwell
Aerials specialist Caldwell (Ashburn, Virginia) is a two-time Olympian and the reigning women’s world cup champion. A five-time world cup winner, she consistently performs some of the hardest triple flips on the women’s circuit and is leading the charge for the U.S. women’s aerials team.

Joss Christensen 
As the defending Olympic champion, Christensen (Park City, Utah) will once again be a top contender for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Since making his Olympic debut in 2014, he claimed the X Games Aspen silver medal in 2015 and won the U.S. Grand Prix three times (2014, 2015, 2016).

Annalisa Drew 
Things are coming together for Drew, who podiumed at X Games last season and kicked off 2016-17 with a podium finish at the U.S. Grand Prix in Copper Mountain. She has the drive and competitiveness to put down a podium-worthy run and, with back-to-back 900s and a left 1080 in her arson, her run is one of the most difficult on the women’s circuit.

Gus Kenworthy 
Kenworthy (Telluride, Colorado) is a double threat, landing podium spots in both slopestyle and halfpipe skiing throughout his career. At the Sochi Games in 2014, he won the silver medal in the Olympic debut of slopestyle skiing. Also known for making history off the slopes, he became one of the first action sports athletes to publicly identify as gay in October 2015. During the ensuing 2015-16 season, he won two silver X Games medals for halfpipe and slopestyle, and also landed a halfpipe win at the U.S. Grand Prix.

Chris Lillis 
Eighteen-year-old Lillis (Pittsford, New York) is one of the youngest members on the U.S. aerials team. He earned his first international world cup starts during the 2015-16 season and closed out that circuit with his first world cup win. He is the youngest man ever to win an aerials world cup.

Jon Lillis 
Lillis (Pittsford, New York) landed his first career world cup podium, a second-place finish, in Moscow in February 2016. With consistent top-10 world cup finishes, he has played a major role in helping the U.S. capture the Nations Cup the past two seasons. He and his brother, Chris Lillis, finished the 2015-16 season as the top U.S. aerialists on the world cup circuit.

Devin Logan 
Similar to Gus Kenworthy, Logan (West Dover, Vermont) is also a strong contender in both slopestyle and halfpipe skiing. She brought home the slopestyle silver medal from the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and since then, has landed multiple top-10 finishes on the world cup between the two disciplines.

Morgan Schild
After suffering a knee injury in 2015, Schild made a strong return to competition in 2016-17 with two podiums on home snow, including her second career win at Deer Valley Resort in Utah. At 20 years old, Schild is young, healthy and skis clean, fast runs to propel herself to the top.

Maggie Voisin 
Voisin (Whitefish, Montana) qualified for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games at age 15, becoming the youngest skier to be named to the U.S. Olympic Team since 1972, but unfortunately she suffered a broken ankle during training and was unable to compete. Recent results, including a second-place finish at the Olympic test event in PyeongChang, indicate Voisin will once again be a likely candidate for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team.

Bradley Wilson 
Moguls specialist Wilson (Butte, Montana) is a 2014 Olympian and three-time world cup winner. After suffering a knee injury in 2014, he made a stunning return to competition on Feb. 27, 2016, with a win in Tazawako, Japan. His dedication to his recovery has made him stronger than ever and he’s poised for great performances in the lead up to the PyeongChang Olympics.

David Wise 
After winning the gold medal at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, Wise (Reno, Nevada) continues to post top results. As a veteran in the sport, he has a deep back of tricks and puts down technical runs with massive amounts of amplitude. He will once again be a strong contender for the PyeongChang Games.

Torin Yater-Wallace 
Yater-Wallace (Basalt, Colorado) has one of the best runs in halfpipe skiing. Entering the qualifying year healthy will be his greatest advantage, and he’ll be coming out firing for his second Olympic berth and another chance to reach the podium.

Qualification

Athletes are eligible for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games if they earn one top-30 finish at a FIS World Cup or world championships event between July 2016 and Jan. 21, 2018. Additionally, athletes must earn a minimum of 80 FIS points in moguls, aerials and skicross, and a minimum of 50 FIS points for slopestyle and halfpipe.

Click here to view the complete 2018 Olympic qualification procedures for freestyle skiing.

Selection

Team USA athletes are vying for up to 30 freestyle spots that are divided between halfpipe, slopestyle, skicross, moguls and aerials with a maximum quota of four starters in each discipline per gender. Athletes may qualify for these spots based on various criteria, in part utilizing results from international competition during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. 

Click here to view the complete 2018 Olympic selection procedures from the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association. 


Editor’s Note: This selection process overview is designed to provide general information only and should not be relied upon by athletes attempting to make the U.S. Olympic Team. The selection process is formally governed by selection procedures published by each National Governing Body. Athletes and other individuals interested in the selection process should contact the appropriate NGB to obtain the full selection procedures, or to seek clarification of the process.

Key Dates

Dec. 6-10 Copper Mountain Grand Prix Copper Mountain, Colorado

Dec. 9

FIS World Cup/Olympic Qualifier (Moguls)

Ruka, Finland

Dec. 15-16 Dew Tour Breckenridge, Colorado

Dec. 16-17

FIS World Cup/Olympic Qualifier (Aerials)

Secret Garden, China

Dec. 21-22

FIS World Cup/Olympic Qualifier (Moguls)

Thaiwoo, China

Jan. 6

FIS World Cup/Olympic Qualifier (Aerials)
FIS World Cup/Olympic Qualifier (Moguls)

Moscow, Russia
Calgary, Alberta

Jan. 10-11

FIS World Cup/Olympic Qualifier (Moguls)

Deer Valley, Utah

Jan. 10-14 Aspen Grand Prix Aspen, Colorado
Jan. 12 FIS World Cup/Olympic Qualifier (Aerials) Deer Valley, Utah
Jan. 17-21 Mammoth Grand Prix Mammoth, California
Jan. 19-20 FIS World Cup/Olympic Qualifier (Aerials) Lake Placid, New York
Jan. 20 FIS World Cup/Olympic Qualifier (Moguls) Tremblant, Quebec
Jan. 22 U.S. Olympic Team announcement
Subject to change