Beginners Guide to Olympic Freestyle Skiing
Freestyle skiing made its official debut at the Olympic Winter Games at Albertville 1992 having previously been a demonstration sport at Calgary 1988 where moguls, aerials and ballet events took place for both genders.
At Albertville 1992 the moguls event was upgraded to a medal event although the aerials and ballet events remained as demonstration sports.
It wasn’t until Lillehammer 1994 that aerials also became a medal event while the ski ballet competition was dropped from the schedule altogether.
It remained that way for three more Games before Vancouver 2010 saw ski cross added to the program taking the total of medal events to six, three for the men and three for the women.
Freestyle skiing was boosted further when, in April 2011, the IOC approved the halfpipe event to be added to the Olympic schedule for both men and women and, then in July of the same year, slopestyle was also added.
That means that as of Sochi 2014 there will be ten gold medals up for grabs for the first time. The dominant nation in freestyle skiing’s short Olympic history has been the USA who have claimed five golds and 14 medals in total.
Near-neighbours Canada trail just behind them with four golds and nine total medals while Australia are somewhat surprisingly third and Switzerland the highest ranked European country in the charts in fourth.
Britain have had representation in every Games since Albertville 1992, barring Turin 2006, but are yet to win a medal.
Freestyle Skiing events include moguls, aerials, halfpipe, slopestyle and ski cross with both men and women participating in each type of event and a qualification and final round taking place in all.
The moguls event is a descent down a bouncy and jarring slope while competitors are also required to perform two jumps on their way through the course.
Scores are determined by judges, who assess how well the moguls are navigated and the quality and difficulty of the jumps performed. Speed of descent is also taken into account.
In aerials athletes start by completing two special qualifying ski jumps each. The athletes with the highest combined scores from the two jumps advance to the finals. Scores from the qualifying round do not carry over to the finals however. For each jump, athletes are judged on their technique for jump takeoff, jump form and landing.
Halfpipe sees athletes compete in a giant tube of ice and snow and perform various tricks – somersaults, flips, grabs and twists – in order to impress the judges and score points
The competition format includes qualifying and final rounds, with two runs per athlete in each round. Places are determined according to the total number of points in the final.
In slopestyle athletes perform on a slope with various types of obstacles – rails, quarter-pipes, and jumps – and perform a variety of tricks to accrue points. There are two runs in each qualifying and final round and the athlete awarded the highest score by the judges wins.
Ski cross is made up of two parts: the qualifying round which is a race against the clock and the final rounds which are mass-start events.
In the qualifying round, athletes race individually down a course approximately 1,000 meters long with turns and obstacles.
The athletes with the fastest times are then divided into groups of four and compete to determine who advances to the next round of competition.
The two-top finishers continue to compete, while the losers are eliminated, with four athletes reaching the final round to compete for the medals.