U.S. Freeski Team Named for Halfpipe, Slopestyle events in Pyeongchang Olympics

U.S. Freeski Team Named for Halfpipe, Slopestyle events in Pyeongchang Olympics

Featured Image: Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain

Following the Toyota Grand Prix Olympic qualifying events that took place at Mammoth Mountain this week—Thursday, January 18 thru Sunday, January 21—the U.S. Freeski Olympic Team has announced the athletes who have earned a spot to compete in slopestyle and halfpipe competitions in the upcoming Pyeongchang games.

Reigning gold medalist Maddie Bowman, 24, as well as Brita Sigourney, 28, Devin Logan, 24, and Annalisa Drew, 24, will ski for the U.S. women in the pipe; meanwhile, gold medal winner at the Sochi Olympics, David Wise, 27, Torin Yater-Wallace, 22, Alex Ferreira, 22, and Aaron Blunck, 21, will be boosting out of the 22-foot halfpipe for Team USA on the men’s side.

In slopestyle, Maggie Voisin, 19, is the only competitor to objectively qualify for Pyeongchang on the women’s side, earning podiums in two previous qualification events. Based on coaches’ discretion, the athletes joining Voisin in these events are Devin Logan, Darian Stevens, 24, and Caroline Claire, 17.

Confirmed competitors on the men’s side include Telluride native Gus Kenworthy, 26, and Indiana boy Nick Goepper, 23, who were both part of the 1-2-3 slopestyle sweep for the Americans in Sochi. Joining Kenworthy and Goepper on Team USA in slopestyle are coaches nominations Alex Hall, 19, and McRae Williams, 27.

In all, the U.S. Freeski Olympic team is sending 16 athletes—8 men, 8 women—to Pyeongchang to compete against the world’s best. With 10 of the 16 competitors returning as Team USA veterans, this year’s roster is one of the strongest and deepest being sent to South Korea.

FREESKIER was on hand this week at Mammoth Mountain for the team naming ceremony and had the chance to speak with many of the aforementioned U.S. Freeski Team athletes as they now shift their focus in preparation of representing the United States in the upcoming Olympic games in South Korea. Read the full event recap, below, and get your Red, White and Blues ready for the Games scheduled this February 9-25.

Halfpipe Recap

The men’s and women’s halfpipe finals for the Toyota Grand Prix competition circuit were held under the lights for the first time ever at Mammoth on Friday, January 19 and the event drew a rowdy crowd with cowbells in-tow. With only American athletes competing in the halfpipe event, it was a true showcase of the United States’ talent heading into Pyeongchang.

US Freeski Olympic Team

Olympic halfpipe competitor Aaron Blunck gets inverted in the pipe at Mammoth Mountain.

In the men’s competition, placing second and confirming his ticket to South Korea was Aspen native Alex Ferreira, who was frothing with excitement just before the podium ceremony. “As soon as I rode [the halfpipe] once, I knew it was going to be a good night,” Ferreira explained just before the podium ceremony. “I could just feel it. Now, I’ve got to just keep doing my thing: being super positive and having a great time [skiing].”

Just behind Ferreira on the halfpipe podium was Torin Yater-Wallace, who also confirmed his placement on the U.S. halfpipe team with his performance on Friday under the lights. Successfully bouncing back from medical issues and injuries from the past year, Yater-Wallace explained that this year has been tough because of rejiggered qualification requirements. “There was a lot of pressure on my shoulders that I didn’t really realize was coming,” said the 22-year-old Aspen local. “Every event you’re just talked up to having to podium. It makes every event about an event in the future.”

Heading into Friday’s events, David Wise of Reno, Nevada, had already clinched his spot on the U.S. men’s halfpipe team, but was notably enthusiastic watching the American competitors throw down late into the California evening. “Skiing right now is the highest level it’s ever been—pipe skiing, in particular. Freeskiing is the most exciting to watch, probably in the history of the sport. And it’s just an honor to be out here riding.”

On the women’s side, Brita Sigourney proved her dominance with a commanding performance, bringing amplitude and style to her three finals runs. A top competitor in the Sochi Olympics, Sigourney expressed how she looks forward to improved course conditions heading into her second Olympics. “When we got [to Russia] things were not exactly as they should have been… so [I’m getting rid of] expectations and going in just trying to have a good time and enjoy the experience.”

From left to right, Bowman, Voisin, Sigourney and Logan, donning customized jackets from The North Face, are as ready as ever to take on Pyeongchang and the global competition.

Placing second, Maddie Bowman will return to the Olympics with a newfound fervor for the sport of skiing. “[In Sochi], I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed—but, this summer, I went through some really hard things mentally and emotionally, and I was just struggling with my skiing,” the Tahoe native explained in an interview following the event’s press conference. “Everyone goes through those emotional ups and downs, and I’m glad to have come out on the other side.”

Rounding out the women’s halfpipe team is competition veteran Devin Logan, who, alongside Bowman and Sigourney, rounds out a U.S. team that will surely give the other participants a run for their money.

Slopestyle Recap

Inclement weather at Mammoth, including strong winds, snowfall and low visibility early in the competition window postponed the two scheduled men’s and one women’s slopestyle finals until Sunday, January 21. Despite the “hurry up and wait” situation at hand, all of the athletes gunning for U.S. Freeskiing Olympic Team spots stepped up on the final day of competition.

The “shark fin” was a highlight feature of Mammoth’s slopestyle course.

Podium appearances by Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper in previous Toyota Grand Prix qualification events at Copper Mountain and Aspen Snowmass put these athletes in prime position to punch their ticket to Pyeongchang this weekend. Although neither placed in the top three in the first of two slopestyle finals on Sunday, the day’s second event proved fruitful for the American skiers.

Placing second, just behind Canadian competitor Evan McEachran, Kenworthy confidently skied his way onto the U.S. slopestyle team with a finals performance that left the crowd in awe. In the post-event press conference, the Telluride native explained that, “the last Olympics went by in a flash… it’s almost like a blur in my memory. This time around, I want to soak up the experience and be as present as possible.”

On the final jump, skiers like Nick Goepper (seen here) nearly entered orbit.

Goepper, who placed third in the second men’s slopestyle event of the day, felt confident that he would make the team all along. “I want to think that I’m on my way up, and that I’ll be peaking by the time of… Korea. I’ve had a couple of seconds and a third here in the Grand Prix events. I’m excited to make my second Olympic team. Right now, it feels great to be secured, healthy and excited.”

On the women’s side, there is still much to be decided by the American coaches. The two or three teammates joining Whitefish, Montana native Maggie Voisin will be announced in the coming days.

For Voisin, the only woman to objectively qualify for Pyeongchang in slopestyle, overcoming injuries, including a broken ankle that occurred just a few weeks prior to the Sochi games and a torn ACL that put her off-track even further, earning a spot in the upcoming Olympic games is a personal achievement more than anything.

“Those [setbacks] have shaped me to where I am today. I’m stronger mentally and physically than I’ve ever been and, without those injuries, I don’t think I’d be here,” explained Voisin in a post-competition interview. “Going into these games, my whole mentality has been about not worrying about the outside pressures, but concerning myself with what’s important to me. I [ski] because I love it—and it’s what I’m going to do.”

Stay tuned right here on freeskier.com for updates and further announcements about the U.S. Freeski Olympic Team heading to Pyeongchang.

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