In review: A look back at Olympic gold medalist Maddie Bowman’s road to Sochi

March 10th, 2014 by

 

On February 20, 2014, Maddie Bowman closed out freeskiing’s Olympic debut in exciting fashion, winning the first-ever women’s Olympic halfpipe gold medal. For the past few years, Bowman has been one of the top female halfpipe competitors, consistently bagging podiums on the AFP World Tour. What makes Bowman’s consistency all the more impressive is the fact that she’s doing it at the ripe age of 20. She’s the reigning back-to-back X Games champion, and has topped eight halfpipe podiums (including Sochi) since the beginning of 2013. It’s safe to say that Bowman’s star shines the brightest when it matters most, a rarity among most athletes her age.

The Road to Sochi:

Since Bowman first started competing on the AFP World Tour in 2009, she has found herself atop the podium 13 times. Her first X Games gold medal in 2013 was perhaps the catalyst to Bowman’s run to Olympic gold. After taking home her first X Games gold, she would take first at the 2013 U.S. Grand Prix in Park City, as well as third at the 2013 X Games Tignes.

As for the Olympic qualifying season, Bowman really turned on the jets, beginning with the Dew Tour in Breckenridge. Bowman staved off strong efforts from both Brita Sigourney and Angeli Vanlaanen to take home the win. Bowman earned valuable points that would go toward her Olympic qualification, and said, in regards to her next event, the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper, “I just want to up some things and get some grabs going.”

Watch: Bowman’s winning run from The 2013 Dew Tour.

Bowman did just that, taking her momentum into Copper and grabbing a second place finish behind Brita Sigourney and just ahead of Marie Martinod.

Next up was the U.S. Grand Prix in Breckenridge, and while heavy snow made conditions a bit difficult to work with, Bowman would end up taking first in the final, her third podium in as many Olympic qualifying events, and thus mathematically locking up her spot in Sochi.

And while Bowman had secured entry in the Olympics, when asked by Freeskier’s Henrik Lampert whether or not she would take the foot off the gas a bit in the upcoming Grand Prix events at Park City, Bowman responded, “I think I’m going to keep going, you know take it one event at a time, that’s what I’ve been doing and excited to go back to Park City and hopefully have some sun, ski in my hoodie, I’m really excited.”

It is just that will to win that allows Maddie Bowman to consistently stand on podiums throughout the AFP World Tour schedule, including yet another first place finish in the first Grand Prix event from Park City. Additionally, Bowman fares well in the eyes of judges because she goes huge, but, more than anything else, has one of the deepest bags of tricks in the game. Her runs include 900s in both directions, one of the only female halfpipe competitors to do so. Recently, Bowman added a switch 720 to her arsenal, a sign of her continued progression.

The win in Park City happened to be her fourth podium in as many Olympic qualifier events, solidifying her as a halfpipe juggernaut heading into Sochi.

After a 10th place finish at the second U.S. Grand Prix event in Park City, a rare podium-miss for Bowman, the Tahoe native would go on to defend her halfpipe gold at Winter X Games in Aspen. Bowman was downright on fire as the Olympics were finally upon us.

While her performances certainly warranted her being dubbed one of, if not the, favorite going into Sochi there were plenty of other women gunning for the top spot on the podium.

Among them was U.S. teammate Brita Sigourney. The 23-year-old placed in the top five in all but one Olympic qualifying event, including a first place finish at the US Grand Prix in Copper.

Another threat to take out Bowman was Canadian Rosalind Groenewould. “Roz G”, as she’s known, is a two-time X Games champion, and stood next to Bowman on the podium at this year’s X Games, placing 2nd.

France’s Marie Martinod, who’s road to Sochi was a far longer one than any of her fellow competitors, was also gunning for the podium. Martinod took home gold at the X Games in 2006, and chose to retire following her victory to start a family back in La Plagne, France, where she grew up. But, after it was announced that halfpipe skiing would be included in the 2014 Winter Olympics, Marie’s competitive spirit couldn’t be held down. After returning to competitive skiing in 2012, Martinod would go on to win gold at the 2013 Winter X Games Europe in Tignes, France, and would stand on the podium in three of the Olympic qualifying events, the US Grand Prix events at Copper and Park City, and X Games in Aspen.

Of course, there were many other strong competitors in the field in Sochi, but, the bottom line was that, if Bowman was going to grab gold, she’d have to earn it.

Watch: Maddie Bowman’s winning run from 2014 X Games.

Recent AFP Results:

For proof of Bowman’s consistency, take a quick glance at some of her most recent AFP results, dating back to 2012.

2014, X Games Aspen, HP, 1st
2014, U.S. Grand Prix Park City #2, HP, 10th
2014, U.S. Grand Prix Park City, HP, 1st
2014, U.S. Grand Prix Breckenridge, HP, 1st

2013, U.S. Grand Prix Copper, HP, 2nd
2013, The Dew Tour at Breckenridge, HP, 1st
2013, The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series at Copper, HP, 26th
2013, X Games Tignes, HP, 3rd
2013, Olympic Test Event in Sochi, HP, 11th
2013, U.S. Grand Prix Park City, HP, 1st
2013, X Games Aspen, HP, 1st
2013, U.S. Grand Prix Copper, HP, 1st

2012, The Dew Tour at Breckenridge, HP, 2nd
2012, The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series at Copper, HP, 1st
2012, World Skiing Invitational & AFP World Championships in Whistler, HP, 1st
2012, X Games Tignes, HP, 6th
2012, U.S. Grand Prix Mammoth, HP, 3rd
2012, The Dew Tour at Snowbasin, HP, 3rd
2012, X Games Aspen, HP, 2nd
2012, The Dew Tour at Killington, HP, 1st

Earning Olympic Gold:

When February 20th finally rolled around, clear skies and cool temperatures welcomed in the ladies of halfpipe skiing, who were set to close out freeskiing’s Olympic debut. On February 11th, Canada’s Dara Howell earned slopestyle gold. On the 13th, U.S.A’s Joss Christensen topped the men’s slopestyle podium, with Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper joining him in a U.S. podium sweep. Then, on the 18th, Team U.S.A’s David Wise grabbed gold in men’s halfpipe, amid snowy, wet conditions. These three performances certainly set the stage for freeskiing’s Olympic finale, women’s halfpipe.

23 female competitors took to the pipe, with 12 advancing to the finals. Bowman skied conservatively in the qualifying round, looking simply to put down a run and advance to the finals, in which she did, qualifying third behind Marie Martinod and Brita Sigourney.

In the finals, Bowman’s first run would prove to be unbeatable, it consisted of a straight air Japan; right 9; left 5 mute; straight air mute; left cork 9; right 7; and switch 7 to close, earning her a score of 89.00.

Maddie Bowman speaks to Henrik Lampert following her gold medal win in Sochi.

While her consistency and technicality in the pipe may make us think otherwise, Bowman admitted she was nervous prior to the event.

“I felt like I was going to barf on my first run,” she said. “It’s a big stage, but I felt the same at X Games, so I knew I could probably handle it. After getting the first run [to my feet], it takes a lot of the pressure off and then you can really just go for it.”

In regards to the grueling Olympic qualifying season, Bowman stated that, in the end, the tough schedule was just a means to a end.

“I think we’ve just tried to take things one event and one day at a time. It seems to have worked out. You have to look at the little things instead of looking at the big picture.”

Additionally, Bowman spoke to the level of riding she, and the entire world, witnessed from the female contingent of skiers.

“The level of riding tonight was crazy,” said Bowman. “All the girls were going huge, first of all, second, there were great tricks being thrown. Anna going for the 12, so awesome… I think we really showed the world what we can do.”

And that they did. On that note, with the women of halfpipe skiing finally able to show their talents to the world, Bowman added a bit about Sarah Burke’s influence on the group of riders.

“Sarah has inspired us on and off snow,” she said. “And I think she would have been very proud of how all the girls rode tonight, [at least] I sure hope that I and all the girls made her proud, we would not be here without her.”

After all, these were Burke’s Olympics, and the level of skiing was a definite testament to her legacy.

This week, Q&A with Bowman:

The women’s halfpipe event was scheduled last among the Olympic freeskiing events. You had a lot of time in Sochi before you had to compete, can you talk a bit about your everyday schedule? How did you stay occupied?

We went last, so we were watching everyone which was a little difficult because we hadn’t even been in the halfpipe yet, while other people were winning medals and leaving the country. Honestly, we kind of got to do what we wanted to do, we went up and rode the mountain, which was beautiful. We definitely had a lot of down time, and you could say, a lot of Russian dolls were painted in the athlete village.

What was the skiing like at Rosa Khutor?

Unfortunately all of the slopestyle kids skied up all of the powder before we got there, but the snow was still pretty great. It was sunny and we skied in our hoodies. I went up with Brita and Anna [Drew] and Ben Verge, our coach, but one day we went up all together, all of the coaches, Torin [Yater-Wallace], Aaron [Blunck], Lyman [Currier] and that was really fun.

What was it like after you had won gold, and you were headed back to the U.S.?

It was so weird because I didn’t feel it, I still don’t feel like I won a gold medal. I think it might take years for that to soak in. But, the night that I won, I felt it, and it was so cool. But, it was really sad saying goodbye to my friends in the airport, because I was going to New York and they were going home. But, it felt like I was headed home from just another ski trip.

With all of the newfound media attention, what has it been like for you since you’ve returned to the United States from Russia? Is it overwhelming?

I’ve never had any experiences like this before. I’m definitely having fun, New York was definitely hectic, but I think that’s because I’m not a city person. It was a blast, going to the Oscar’s parties was really cool. I think it’s been the perfect amount [of attention]. Now, I’m finally getting to come home and see my friends, I’m stoked.

You’re back in Utah now, have you gotten any skiing in since you’ve been back in the States?

Yeah! We’ve been trying to ski as much as we can. I took a trip up to Sun Valley this last weekend, and have just been skiing in Utah with Brita [Sigourney] and everyone.

Have you made it back to Tahoe yet?

No, but I am going back this coming weekend, and [the Tahoe community] is throwing this huge parade for me, Hannah Teter and Jamie Anderson, which is awesome.

What’s it going to be like having this homecoming for all of these Lake Tahoe natives who did well in Sochi?

It’s going to be awesome. We all ride for the same resort here in Tahoe, so the General Manager of our mountain is planning this big celebration with parades and parties at the mountain. I’m excited to experience it with two other awesome girls and to just see everyone from home, because I haven’t been home yet.

You and your fellow U.S. teammates have gone through this mass media storm since winning gold and picked up a huge following along the way; how will you use this platform to promote skiing? Have you thought about that yet?

Yeah, now that we have more attention on us than we did before. I’m going to try and go out there and have fun, I definitely want to get into some different stuff, ski park more, get out of bounds. I’m excited to push myself and the sport. I’m still obviously going to do everything I can in the halfpipe.

Does this new celebrity status alter your self image at all?

I’m definitely the same person, if not dorkier since the Olympics happened. I still feel like a skier just like everyone else that goes up into the mountains. It’s been kind of a weird, when I meet people that aren’t from the sport, they’re like, “can I see your medal?” But, it’s nice to come back to the ski community where they still know exactly who you are and know that you can work harder and have fun.

You mentioned that you’ve been skiing around with Brita, and a bunch of your other U.S. teammates and friends, is anything different between you guys now that the Olympics are over?

It’s interesting, there’s less pressure on us, but we’re still having a ton of fun. I’m so stoked to be back with everyone. We went up the other day and Brita and I were just goofing around, but Wing Tai [Barrymore], learned a new double. It was pretty cool, and it feels like home. It’s your family that’s not actually your family, so it’s good to be back with everyone.

What have you got planned for this season, and moving forward into next?

Most of our competitions are pretty much over for this season. There’s an SFR event in France, but that’s at exactly the same time as our celebration in Tahoe, so I thought that I should probably go home and be a part of that. Competition-wise we’re pretty much done, but the summer camps in Whistler and Mammoth will be pretty fun.

And are you looking to jump right back into the halfpipe circuit next season?

Yeah, I mean, why not? We get to travel all over and ski all the time, so I can’t really see myself doing anything else right now. But, it should be a little bit more relaxed next season, which will be nice.

Giving Thanks:

While the infamous Rule 40 prevented Bowman—and all other Olympic athletes—from publicly thanking their sponsors throughout the duration of the Games, we’ll take a moment to give due credit to those who have supported Olympic gold medalist Maddie Bowman on her road to the top of the women’s Olympic halfpipe podium.

Bowman is sponsored by Head/Tyrolia for hardgoods: skis, boots and bindings. Bowman just recently signed on with Head, which has stepped it up recently, supporting such names as Keri Herman, Matt Walker, Alex Ferreira and Aaron Blunck, to compete alongside athletes Simon Dumont and Jon Olsson on the roster. Bowman also grew up skiing, and is sponsored by, Sierra-at-Tahoe. There, in South Lake, is where Bowman developed many of the tricks in her bag. Additionally, Bollé provides Bowman with helmets and goggles to make sure she performs to the best of her abilities in the pipe, and is protected in the event of a crash. Bowman is also sponsored by Rockstar Energy and The North Face.

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About the author:
Donny O'Neill hails from the mystical, faraway land of New Hartford, CT. When he's not in the mountains searching for Big Foot, he's the Associate Editor here at Freeskier.