Contenders: Who are the freeskiers to watch for in Pyeongchang?

Contenders: Who are the freeskiers to watch for in Pyeongchang?

In 2014, freeskiing made its Winter Olympic debut and boy was it ever exciting to see freeskiing on the world stage. As we gear up for a sophomore appearance, here’s an early look at some of the medal favorites from the U.S. and beyond.

GUS KENWORTHY | 26, USA 🇺🇸

Because no one has won as many World Titles as him. Because no one besides him has medaled in X Games pipe, slope and big air, respectively, in almost a decade. Because he’s the most accomplished contest skier of all time. And because he’s looking to cement his place in Olympic history, once again. @guskenworthy


AARON BLUNCK | 21, USA 🇺🇸

Blunck is the embodiment of the American zeitgeist. He’s all or nothing—always looking to complete the Hail Mary or land the knockout punch. The X Games superpipe gold medalist leaves it all on the field, consequences be damned. He is, without a doubt, the most exciting wild card in the Pyeongchang race, and we’d have it no other way. @aaronblunck


ØYSTEIN BRÅTEN | 22, NORWAY 🇳🇴

Historically, Norway has produced some great freeskiers (see: Andreas Håtveit and PK Hunder). And today there is more burgeoning talent than ever in the Scandinavian country. Øystein Bråten happens to be the best and brightest. By a mile. Need proof? He went two for-two in gold medals at X Games last year. With a confident performance in Pyeongchang, Bråten could go from best Norwegian now, to best Norwegian ever. @oysteinbraten


TORIN YATER-WALLACE | 22, USA 🇺🇸

Torin Wallace has to be the odds-on halfpipe favorite heading into the Games. And not just because he’s your favorite skier’s favorite skier; it’s because he doesn’t ski the halfpipe, he attacks it. He defies gravity in a way that’s unnatural. He doesn’t shy away from the difficult tricks. He’s had a rash of bad luck health-wise over the years, but now is his time. He won’t accept the mantle; he’ll take it. @torinyw


MIKE RIDDLE | 31, CANADA 🇨🇦

Unbelievably, Mike Riddle has been gracing podiums at events for well over a decade. He’s twice the age of likely Olympian, Tess Ledeux. He’s skiing’s Jaromir Jagr, consistently producing as his contemporaries retire to greener pastures. Rest assured, the sun hasn’t set on The Riddler; he’s got another Olympic rodeo left in him. @mike_riddle


MAGGIE VOISIN | 18, USA 🇺🇸

Maggie Voisin entered the 2014 Olympics as a fresh-faced 15-year-old. Wide-eyed and happy to be there, a broken fibula unfortunately ended her medal bid. Fast-forward four years… The humble Voisin is stronger, more experienced and, if it was possible, more talented than she was before. The heir apparent to the women’s field isn’t wide-eyed any longer. She’s ready to sit on the throne, starting in Pyeongchang. @maggie_voisin


MADDIE BOWMAN | 23, USA 🇺🇸

Is it possible that a nine-time X Games medalist can be an underdog? It seems that over the last year, many have written the Lake Tahoe, California native off. Maybe because she didn’t win a fifth straight gold in Aspen last year? Because her skiing isn’t as flashy as others? Well, she’s still the best. Underdog or not, Bowman will be looking to taste Olympic gold once again, critics be damned. @maddie_bowman


JAMES WOODS | 25, Great Britain 🇬🇧

He’s been at the top for so long that people forget that Woodsy learned to ski on what are essentially toothbrush bristle covered hills. He hails from a place where there is no snow or ski resorts; he grew up on the dry slopes of Sheffield, UK. That’s like a speed skater training on rollerblades. The fact he’s become a legitimate podium threat at every event is astounding, and he gives Britain its best shot at a freeskiing medal. @jameswoodsy


BRITA SIGOURNEY | 27, USA 🇺🇸

Her style is arguably the best of all the top-dog female pipe skiers. She has some of the highest amplitude, too. She can be electric on the right day. And she’s got ample experience under her belt (reminder: all the medalists in Sochi were seasoned AFP World Tour vets). She might not be the betting favorite in Korea, but she’s far from a dark horse. If Americans wants to see their flag waving in February, Brita is as good a bet as any. @britasig


NICK GOEPPER | 23, USA 🇺🇸

He’s got three X Games gold medals in his back pocket; in a row, no less! He took slopestyle bronze in Sochi, so there’s no doubt the Midwestern product will be looking to upgrade his hardware in 2018. Experience and talent matters, and Nick has both in spades. @nickgaper


HENRIK HARLAUT | 26, SWEDEN 🇸🇪

The great ones always go by a single name, and Harlaut is simply known as “Dollo.” People might mock his hair; short dreadlocks aren’t cool? Or his personal appearance; they make 5XL pants? But his style, trick selection, love for skiing and always-positive attitude are so singular that you cannot help but become a fan. The bird-calling, Wu-Tang loving, always-smiling Dollo will not be denied. @hharlaut


CASSIE SHARPE | 25, CANADA 🇨🇦

With the best-looking 900 since Sarah Burke, a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, amplitude that literally puts her a head above and a slew of world-class results to stand behind, the young Canadian is the favorite for halfpipe gold. @cassiesharpe


TIRIL SJÅSTAD CHRISTIANSEN | 22, NORWAY 🇳🇴

The Norwegian talent has a training regimen like an alpine skier, with a laser-focus for gold in Korea. Most elite athletes are driven to get better—Tiril is driven to be the best. She’s got four X Games medals sitting on her trophy shelf and she’s hungry to add an Olympic crown to the collection. @tiril


BEAU-JAMES WELLS | 21, NEW ZEALAND 🇳🇿

Third in line to the throne in New Zealand, Beau-James Wells is ready to jump out of his brothers’ shadows and become the prince that was promised. His halfpipe tricks will win him the contest while his smooth-as-butter style will appease the fan boys. @beaujameswells


NOAH BOWMAN | 25, CANADA 🇨🇦

Watching him ski halfpipe is a transcendent experience. It’s not spin to win. It’s not huck and pray. It’s an effortless blend of difficulty and flow. He’s an artist, and he’ll look to paint his masterpiece in Pyeongchang. @noahbowmanski


ALEX BEAULIEU-MARCHAND | 23, CANADA 🇨🇦

He has a masterful rail game and insane air awareness, yet people oftentimes write him off. Maybe it’s because he’s a polite Canadian. Maybe it’s because he’s tall. Maybe, and more likely, they’re wrong. “ABM” will light the world on fire in February. @abmskier


EVAN McEACHRAN | 20, CANADA 🇨🇦

There are few that can rival the depth of his trick catalog. While he’s yet to find a major podium, Evan was born 45 minutes from where The Great One (Wayne Gretzky, you blockheads) was born. Coincidence? We think not. With NHL players out of the Olympics this go-round, Canadians will need a podium threat to root for, and well, they should look no further. Expect big things from the pride of Ontario. @evanmceachran


EMMA DAHLSTRÖM | 25, SWEDEN 🇸🇪

You know in Terminator 2 when the T-1000 gets doused by liquid nitrogen? That’s how ice-cold Emma Dahlström is in contest mode. The very friendly Dahlström blocks it all out and knows how to consistently get it done. The one-time X Games gold medalist has become the most reliable podium threat on the women’s slopestyle circuit and it’ll continue into 2018. @emmadahlstrom_


DAVID WISE | 27, USA 🇺🇸

He’s the 2014 Olympic halfpipe gold medalist. He’s a 4-time X Games halfpipe medalist: three gold, one silver. He’s a two-time AFP year-end halfpipe champion (2013, 2015). He’s a friendly, fun-loving family man by day (he has a daughter, Nayeli, and son, Malachi, with wife Alexandra), and a gruesome halfpipe slayer by night. When the man is on, he’s on. He’ll be gunning for an Olympic repeat. @mrdavidwise


KEVIN ROLLAND | 28, FRANCE 🇫🇷

Watching Kevin Rolland ski halfpipe is both glorious and terrifying. His airs are simultaneously jaw dropping and death defying. He’s an animal on-course, which is a great juxtaposition to his off-hill, soft spoken, low-key and humorous nature. He’s among the older competitors, but he’s sitting on three X Games gold medals. Don’t count him out in 2018. @kevin_rolland


JOHANNE KILLI | 20, NORWAY 🇳🇴

Heading into the Games, you won’t hear much about Johanne, despite her winning a gold medal at X Games Norway last season. But, she likes it that way. The competition will never see the steely-eyed skier from Dombas coming until it’s too late. @johanneekilli

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