Who to Watch
White is expected to repeat the gold medal-winning halfpipe performance (see helmet cam video) he gave at the 2006 Games in Torino. The energetic carrot-top is an action sports icon, appearing regularly on magazine covers and in Red Bull commercials and has two video games that bear his name. White’s success both in and out of the halfpipe is tremendous: Last year he brought in an estimated $9 million in prize money and sponsorships, making him the second-highest paid action sport star in the nation.
Maelle Ricker, CAN (see video)
The veteran of the Canadian team, Ricker is one of the most consistent snowboard cross competitors in the world. She was a bronze medalist at the 2005 World Championships and finished fourth at the 2006 Torino Games. While her strength is in snowboard cross, Ricker is an accomplished halfpipe boarder as well, having finished fifth in Nagano at age 19.
Other Americans to watch: With a stacked team, US snowboarders could well repeat their 2006 feat of capturing more medals than any other US team – making them key to the overall medal count. On the men's side, look for Nate Holland and Seth Wescott, while on the women's side, Lindsey Jacobellis and fashion queen Gretchen Bleiler are sure to challenge for gold. And if you want to get in the spirit from your couch, you can enjoy a few scoops of Ben & Jerry's new Maple Blondie flavor, inspired by Vermonter Hannah Teter.
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Olympic snowboarding breaks down into three events:
- Parallel Giant Slalom (see video): in an overall series of nine heats, snowboarders race in pairs down a gated course. The faster boarder advances to the next round.
- Snowboard Cross (see video): four competitors race each other down an undulating course peppered with jumps and banked turns, with the top two finishers advancing to the next race.
With its baggy snow pants, flashy jackets, and jargon that includes terms like “alley oop” and “pipe dragon," snowboarding can seem like the punk grandchild in the starched-collar family of Winter Olympics sports. But that's a welcome relief to many who don't relate to European sports such as luge and ski jumping. The boarders’ flare, hipster lifestyle, and impressive displays of speed, technique, and control have won the sport fans from around the world and helped to make the snowboarding events among the most popular of the Winter Games.
The sport of snowboarding was born from a kitsch 1960s American toy: the “Snurfer.” Originally just a large skateboard without wheels, the “snow surfer” was unwieldy, difficult to control, and banned from ski resorts. While in exile, the sport developed a cult-like following and was particularly popular with skateboarders. This skateboarding influence molded the sport’s techniques and youthful attitude.
Sources: nbcolympics.com, vancouver2010.com, Oxford Encyclopedia of World Sports, forbes.com, The New York Times