Big Air a likely next step at Olympics

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 23, 2014 at 2:10 am •  Published: February 23, 2014
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Coming soon to an Olympics near you: Could it be Big Air?

Buoyed by the success of slopestyle and other new action sports at this year's Sochi Games, leaders at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association are hatching a plan to bring a few more high-flying athletes into the mix.

"We're working on some things," Bill Marolt, the president and CEO of USSA, told The Associated Press. "There's definitely a possibility some new events could be added."

He would not get into specifics, but there have been conversations in international circles about two events: a team snowboardcross race and Big Air.

Team snowboardcross is a relay version of the bang-'em-up version of snowboard racing, in which six riders line up and race their way down the hill, side-by-side.

Big Air is essentially a "Best Of" slopestyle contest, in which the rails and kickers are ditched and riders simply do jump after jump off a highly pitched ramp.

From the start of the Sochi Games, the colorful, made-for-TV nature of the new Olympic sports was on full display. American Sage Kotsenburg flew over a massive Russian nesting doll, then pulled off a jump he'd never tried — with 1620 degrees of spin and a fancy grab of his board — to capture the first gold of the games.

Slopestyle was added to the Olympic program in both the snowboard and skiing varieties, while a skiing version of halfpipe was introduced, as well.

That meant more medals to go around and the United States and Canada took full advantage.

The Americans won 12 medals at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Canada took 11.

The message was clear: These two countries worked hardest to bring these sports into the Olympics. They knew there were medals to be won and they knew the sports would sell to TV networks back home.

NBC paid $775 million to televise the games; it's the biggest single chunk of money the IOC brings in.

"We saw what snowboarding brought, and we looked around and saw what freeskiing could bring," Marolt said. "When the IOC looked at it, it was about the same time NBC was looking for sports that were relative to the youth market. It worked out well."

Here are five highlights (with a lowlight or two sprinkled in) from the 17 days of action at the Extreme Park:

SHAUN WHITE: This was the best and worst. Worst because he pulled out slopestyle and finished fourth in his signature event, the halfpipe. Best, though, because fans got to see another side of the world's most famous snowboarder — some genuine vulnerability throughout and the moment when he hopped the fence to hug it out with a pair of kids with cancer. And the sport didn't disintegrate without him. The world met the "I-Pod" — Iouri Podladtchikov — and some other rising stars, as well.

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