Interested in Olympic halfpipe snowboarding? Before you go any further, take a look at 17-year-old American Chloe Kim dominating the world.
Even if you aren’t following the Winter Olympics, you should absolutely tune in tonight to see the triumphant return of Shaun White, proudly representing Team USA during the halfpipe snowboarding competition as he goes for the gold. Unfamiliar with halfpipe snowboarding? Here are the rules and some other info you need to know before tuning in tonight.
While snowboarding is a relatively new sport to be added to the Winter Olympic roster, it has skyrocketed in popularity. Halfpipe snowboarding was officially added to the Olympics in 1998. “The early phases of snowboarding began in the 1960’s, utilized by skateboarders and surfers as a winter board sport. During the 1970’s and 1980’s snowboarding slowly gained popularity and by the 1990’s it had become a norm at ski resorts. Snowboarders began organizing competitions on the early 1980’s but the sport did not make its Olympic debut until 1998 at the Nagano Games,” reports trails.com.
1. Exactly What Halfpipe Snowboarding Is
A U-shaped course with 22-foot walls is set up for competitors to ride through, stunning the crowd various complex tricks as they travel through the halfpipe (also called a superpipe) at high speeds, according to NBC Olympics.
Riders maneuver using both sides of the pipe, smoothly executing complex tricks using both sides of the pipe; making it appear completely effortless. To qualify for the halfpipe competition, 30 men and 24 women must make it through the grueling qualification round. Each competitor is given the opportunity to complete two runs, with the better of the two runs counting. The top 12 competitors will then advance to the final competition.
What does the final round consist of? In the 2018 Olympics, the final consists of three runs (past Olympic games consisted of just two runs).
“The final will consist of three runs, a change from past Olympics which used two-run formats. Again in the final, only each competitor’s best score will count towards the final results. The start order for all three runs will be the inverse of the results from the qualification round (the athlete with the lowest score in qualifying goes first and the athlete with the best score goes last),” continues NBC Olympics.
2. How Halfpipe Snowboarding is Judged
A team of six judges scores each halfpipe runs. The highest and lowest scores are dropped. Then, the four remaining scores are calculated together for each run. Each judge gives a score from 1 to 100 based on overall impression.
What do the judges consider?
1. Amplitude, or height. This includes not only starting off with a powerful boost of energy, but maintaining it. Riders are encouraged not only to reach massive air when they boost out of the halfpipe, but maintaining that height and energy level throughout the duration of their run.
2. Difficulty. For the layperson, the technical difficulty of each of the maneuvers the riders complete is hard to gauge, which is where the expertise of the judges comes in. Riders are encouraged to add an alley-oop spin (an uphill maneuver) during their routine, adding to the complexity, finesse and overall showmanship of the performance. This is an area where Shaun White has consistently excelled.
3. Variety. Riders are discouraged from doing a predictable, “routine” run. After all, when it comes to snowboarding, riders are given room for creativity and diversity in their performances, so they have the opportunity to really customize their run to stun the crowd for that extra “wow” factor. Again, Shaun White has been known to excel in this arena.
4. Execution. How smooth is the ride? Does the rider appear to be steady, in control and moving with fluidity? Are the landings smooth, or does the rider appear shaky? In the past, gold medalists have made their landings look completely smooth and effortless (though, of course, nothing could be further from the truth). It takes an expert eye to really understand the subtle nuances of a snowboarder’s ride, which is where the trained panel of judges comes in when it’s time for scoring.
3. How The Format of Halfpipe Snowboarding That is Used During the Olympic Games Works
The Olympic slopestyle competition is detailed by NBC Olympics as follows:
The Olympic slopestyle competition consists of a qualification round and a final round.
The qualification round will consist of two runs, with each competitor’s best single run counting. The top 12 riders from the qualification round will advance to the final. If the organizers choose to divide the qualification field into two separate heats, then the top six riders from each heat (for a total of 12 riders) will advance to the final. Scores from the qualification round do not carry over to the final.
The final will consist of three runs, a departure from the two-run format used in Sochi. Again in the final, only each competitor’s best score will count towards the final results. The start order for all three runs will be the inverse of the results from the qualification round (the athlete with the lowest score in qualifying goes first and the athlete with the best score goes last).
Of course, while Olympians make their incredible skills look effortless, snowboarding can be an extremely dangerous sport. If you are an aspiring Olympian or just an amateur enjoying yourself on the slopes, remember to use the proper safety gear.
On a serious note, to learn more about the dangerous side of snowboarding, check out The Crash Reel about Kevin Pearce, whose life would be forever changed by a horrific accident while snowboarding.
4. The Snowboarders Who Defy Gravity
Make sure to keep your eye on 17-year-old Chloe Kim tonight of Team USA. Kim, only 17, was too young to compete in Sochi, as she was only 13 at the time. However, experts speculate that if she had been given the opportunity to complete, she might have brought home a medal.
Update: Chloe Kim did not disappoint. She stunned, dominated and dazzled the world with her halfpipe skills, bringing home the well-deserved gold.
“Now that I think about it, I’m really glad I wasn’t able to go,” Kim told NBC Olympics last year. “I don’t think I would’ve been able to take it, to handle the pressure. Emotionally I don’t think I was ready. There’s obviously such a huge difference between 13 and 17. Like, when I was 13, what did I do? Get my nails done and do maybe two or three contests a year. I feel like a lot’s changed. And I didn’t have much experience when it came to a lot of media pressure and sponsors, all that stuff. But now I kind of know, I’ve kind of been through it all. So I think I’ll be a little more prepared for things,” Kim said in an interview with NBC Olympics.
Learn more about Chloe Kim here:
Be sure to watch carefully to see Chloe’s signature trick, the cab 1080. According to NBC. she did a frontside 1080 on one wall of the halfpipe, followed by a cab 1080 on the other wall — in a competition run. She remains the only woman to successfully execute that combo.
Returning to the games tonight is veteran Olympian Shaun White, 31, recovering from an injury during which he sustained a massive gash to his face and nose, requiring over 60 stitches. However, White seems undeterred. “However, his preparations for the Games received a bloody nose — literally — when he smashed into the lip of the halfpipe while training in New Zealand in October and needed 62 stitches to his head and face. Crashes go with the territory in the world of halfpipe snowboarding when athletes fly high above the 22ft walls of pipe and perform a series of tricks, twists and upside down turns, with names like double cork 1440 or switch double-cork 1260. White knows the rules of the game, and knew he had to get back in the saddle,” as CNN reports.
Another incredible athlete competing tonight is Kelly Clark, of Team USA, whose profile can be seen here. Clark, a gold medalist, never fails to stun the crowd, and she never fails to disappoint.
5. Explaining What to Look For When Watching Halfpipe Snowboarding in Action
To get a better idea of what halfpipe snowboarding looks like, take a look at this compilation:
As with most Olympic sports, halfpipe snowboarding is the art of having an incredible skill set, amazing strength, resilience, a refusal to give up, and the ability to make the entire performance look effortless.
Before tuning in to see tonight’s games, check out this video of the women’s finalists: