As freeski gets closer to making it’s debut at Sochi, the battle for spots on the U.S. freeski team begins and Dew Tour’s iON Mountain Championships are offering these athletes their first shot at earning that valuable spot. However, with the talent in the States deep enough to roster multiple teams, earning a spot on the U.S. team may be harder than actually competing in Sochi. Regardless of their world-class skillsets, many top athletes will be sidelined come Games time. Hopefully Dew Tour's laid-back atmosphere will allow these athletes a chance to calm their nerves and earn their spot, but there is no question that the stakes are high this week for freeski athletes.
On paper, it may appear nearly impossible to make the team with stud skiers such as Tom Wallisch, Bobby Brown, Nick Goepper and Gus Kenworthy, owning nearly every podium. However, Alex Schlopy may have the tools it takes to earn one of the coveted roster spots.
Schlopy had a historic rookie season in 2011 that included winning gold at the first-ever World Championship event for slopestyle. Winning was easy, but staying at the top wasn't. The 21-year-old suffered a knee injury in 2012 and he hasn't returned to the podium since. But don't count him out. Schlopy still has all the potential to be the dark horse that upsets the U.S. freeski slopestyle squad. First try: Breckenridge.
With every Dew Tour, comes the opportunity for an up-and-comer to steal the spotlight. This year's choice to play that role is 17-year-old Aaron Blunck. As a halfpipe rider he'll have to overcome the full breadth of talent of the men's halfpipe that includes David Wise, Simon Dumont and fellow teenager, Torin Yater-Wallace. The Crested Butte, Col., native had enough quality victories to become the fourth overall ranked freeskier on the AFP rankings for 2013.
Spending an entire year on the quest for winter to train for one discipline is hard enough, but trying to do it, and compete in two, well, that idea may come across as crazy talk. If there's one freeskier who is a threat in both the halfpipe and slopestyle, it's Gus Kenworthy, who's "always done both" when he was younger.
"You have the chance to do well at every event and if you don't there's the chance of redemption."
The 22-year-old is considered to be the most well-rounded freeskier. He finished second in the halfpipe at the Olympic test event in Sochi last February and third in slopestyle a month later at the 2013 World Championships — if there is only one name to root for as the underdog to take it all in freeski, it's Kenworthy.
"It adds stress doing both, definitely takes its toll on your body," says Kenworthy. "It's fun."
The Dew Tour may be just one of five Olympic qualifying events, however, being the first one, all eyes will be on these uber-talented athletes to perform at their highest and prove to their country they are ready to represent. A challenge they're all up for, regardless of how deep the pool is.
Check out Part I, The Olympic Bubble Battle Begins at Breck: Snowboard