Slopestyle grabs its chance as Sochi games get underway

Thu Feb 6, 2014 9:46am EST
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By Philip O'Connor

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - There were thrills, spills and plenty of nerves as slopestyle snowboarding opened competition at the Sochi Olympics on Thursday, and while much of the focus had been on athlete safety most came away unscathed at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

All eyes were on the course following Wednesday's withdrawal of American Shaun White, citing safety concerns, and the frightening crash that left Norway medal hope Torstein Horgmo with a broken collarbone.

But if any of the snowboarders were holding anything back on the sport's Olympic debut they did not show it, as they launched themselves spinning through the air to impress the judges.

Australian Scotty James was left clutching his ribs after a heavy fall, and Norway's Kjersti Buaas had to seek medical attention following a wipeout on her final run in the womens second heat.

But overall, competitors were pleased with the course.

"It's demanding, but it works. It's not a bad course," Norway's Torgeir Bergrem, who slipped in both runs, told Reuters in the finish zone

"They're not the most 'poppy' jumps - we're used to getting a little help with our tricks - but you have to do everything on your own here, so I guess that's the main difference that people are struggling with."

Bergrem said that doubts over course safety expressed earlier in the week had been dealt with after organizers trimmed the height of some of the jumps.   Continued...

Canada's Sebastien Toutant performs a jump during the men's slopestyle snowboarding qualifying session at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Rosa Khutor February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez