Freeskiing gets underway at the Winter Olympics this week with a series of slopestyle competitions. The women will go first on Saturday, then the men on Sunday (Saturday night in the U.S.).
The U.S. swept the podium in men’s slopestyle four years ago, but one of the architects of that sweep, gold medalist Joss Christensen, was unable to make the team this year after coming back from ACL surgery. The silver and bronze medalists from Sochi, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper, are back and capable of contending for medals once again.
If he’s going to win another Olympic medal, Kenworthy will have to do it with a broken thumb. He picked up the injury while practicing on the slopestyle course in PyeongChang this week, though it will not stop him from competing.
Team USA features two new Olympians: McRae Williams and Alex Hall. Williams, 27, is a three-time X Games medalist who really hit his stride last season after discovering a technique known as “mindfulness.”
With a strong team, the U.S. will once again push for medals, but for anyone expecting another sweep, expectations should be tempered. The international field is both deep and talented – though the same could have been said in Sochi as well.
Here’s a look at some of the other countries and athletes that will challenge the Americans for medals.
Switzerland: Andri Ragettli, Fabian Boesch
Is anyone having more fun at the Olympics than these guys? Fabian Boesch’s Instagram account has become a must-follow after videos that have included a new take on the two-man bobsled and a creative way of riding escalators. Andri Ragettli, the first skier to ever land a quad cork 1800, is no stranger to viral videos either – his parkour-inspired obstacle course training sessions have been a big hit.
Sweden: Henrik Harlaut
Henrik Harlaut is probably best remembered as the guy with the dreadlocks who nearly lost his pants at the last Olympics and then gave a shout-out to the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. But he’s also a huge innovator in the freeski world and has a lot of stylish and unique tricks. He won gold in both slopestyle and big air at X Games this year and placed sixth at the Sochi Olympics.
Great Britain: James Woods
It took until 2014 for Great Britain to win its first-ever Olympic medal in a snow sport (Jenny Jones, snowboard slopestyle). James Woods is one the nation’s top hopes for PyeongChang. He finished fifth at the last Olympics and fourth at last month’s X Games.
Norway: Oystein Braaten, Ferdinand Dahl
Oystein Braaten won the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) slopestyle title last season and has earned a medal at X Games Aspen for three consecutive years. Ferdinand Dahl, 19, is on the rise and recently finished second at a U.S. Grand Prix event.
Canada: Evan McEachran, Teal Harle, Alex Bellemare, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand
A solid all-around team, Canada has a number of skiers capable of finding the podium. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (aka “ABM”) is the only returning Olympian on the team. He was 12th in Sochi.
How to Watch
NBCOlympics.com will be streaming every round of every competition live online. Links to each stream are below.
Qualifying: Saturday, Feb, 17, 8:00 p.m. ET
Final: Saturday, Feb, 17, 11:15 p.m. ET