At 20 years old, Maddie Bowman, of south Lake Tahoe, is a young competitor who loves slalom skiing and her dog, Charlie. She converted to freeskiing at age 14, and at age 17, she entered the big competitions. She excel in the half pipe—just the other day, she won the Ski Super Pipe at the 2014 X Games in Aspen, adding to her victories in ‘12 and ’13. She’s a strong competitor, and there’s a good chance Bowman might medal at the Olympics when ladies hit the halfpipe on skis for the first time ever on Thursday, February 20. My money’s on her to win.
There has been a lot of talk about how the Olympics finally added halfpipe and slopestyle at Sochi, a move which, in my opinion, was long overdue. There have been great competitors putting it all out there without the opportunity to show their stuff on the biggest of stages for a long time—David Wise, Kaya Turski, and Gus Kenworthy, to name a few of my favorites. Freeskiing includes both halfpipe and slopestyle, two separate disciplines that include a diverse group of competitors. Some skiers, like Devin Logan (who won a silver medal in slopestyle at these Olympics on Tuesday) and Gus Kenworthy, do both. Logan said that every halfpipe you ski in is similar, but each slopestyle course will be different, so you have to tailor your run to each course.
Freeskiers have to plan any run—for both halfpipe and slope style—but in slopestyle, you do a lot of different things to earn your score. To win at slopestyle, you have to stomp a variety of tricks, transitioning perfectly between rails and big air. Competitors have to remove distraction and focus on what will get them the top score. In halfpipe, every year, the degree of difficulty is higher, and the tricks that skiers do to win keeps increasing. The tricks combine multiple summersaults and spins, and every year, there’s more summersaults and spins for competitors to score highest. Bowman pulls off hard tricks, but she has to land them smoothly to come out on top. Those moves will contribute to her score—to score high enough to medal in halfpipe, the skier has to do a hard enough trick, but not one too hard that they can’t land it.
Bowman’s top competition in these Olympics will come from Canadian Roz Groenewoud. She’s another top halfpipe competitor, who came in second to Bowman at last month’s X Games and won gold there in 2012, and it might come down to these two battling it out with their runs.
Canadian Sarah Burke’s lifelong dream and project was to get freeskiing in the Olympics, and since she passed away in 2011, her goal has been achieved. It’s been far too long that freeskiing hasn’t been allowed in the Olympics, and every time you see a competition, the tricks just get bigger and more difficult. It’s that type of excitement that folks back home will appreciate when halfpipe competition begins. Bowman will compete in the Olympics- finally- and she will have Burke’s spirit in tow. —Sally Francklyn
Watch Maddie Bowman in the 2013 X Games here: