Photo Credit: Zimbio.com
For skiing enthusiasts the Freestyle Ski events at the Olympics are the final frontier of competitive skiing. In a sport that combines high-level tactical skiing ability, incredible aerial maneuvers, and death defying speeds, Freestyle Skiing is pretty much the coolest thing you can do atop two skis. There are ten freestyle events slated for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, five for women and five for men.
Freestyle skiing made its Olympic debut in 1988 at the Calgary games. Each Winter Olympics thereafter the sport was expanded to include specific competitions for various components of the freeski performance. The current set up of five separate events was only finalized in the last Winter Games in Sochi when the halfpipe and the slopestyle events were added to the roster. It’s safe to say that the sport is still rapidly evolving and that as freeskiers become more renowned on the Olympic podium, there will be future iterations of the Olympically recognized events.
A main freeskiing event is Aerial, in which skiers speed off a short ramp that can propel them as much as 60 feet above the slope that they are intended to land on. Whilst in the air skiers attempt as many flips, turns and tricks as possible and aim for a smooth and concise landing. They land on an incline of up to 39 degrees and are then judged by the Freeskiing committee. Their final score is dependent upon the difficulty of their maneuvers, the precision of their landing, and their overall appearance in the air. Other main Freestyle Skiing events are the Mogul events in which skiers course down a mountain filled with mounds of snow that they must expertly navigate and well as the halfpipe event where competitors demonstrate immense tactical precision and stunning tricks while winding their way through a halfpipe.
One of the most famous Freestyle Skiers in the world is American, Torin Yater-Wallace. At only 22, he has already earned his keep as one of the most advanced skiers in the world. He is expected to take home the gold for USA next year in Pyeongchang. What makes his imminent victory even more compelling for his fans and competition alike is that only last year Yater-Wallace was not expected to live. A very rare abscess in his liver was causing his fever to skyrocket and his breathing to become nearly impossible, yet was still going undetected by even the most senior medical professionals. At one point, Torin’s mother and girlfriend, fellow future Olympic skier, Sarah Hendrickson, were called into his Intensive Care Room where they were informed that Yater-Wallace might not survive the night and that they should make travel arrangements for the family so that they may say their goodbyes.
But Torin did much more than just survive the night. Instead, he made an insanely fast recovery and, within weeks, was already planning to get back on the snow. Powder is, after all, what he knows best in the world and he wasn’t going to let anything stand between him and the gold. Those who will be cheering Torin on next year at Pyeongchang are not just cheering for him as an athlete, nor are they cheering for team USA, but they are cheering for health, strength, and beating impossible odds.