Friends first as 'sick' slopestyle set for Olympic debut

Wed Feb 5, 2014 5:37am EST
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By Philip O'Connor

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - There are Olympic medals at stake for the first time in the sport's history but for most competitors in slopestyle snowboarding, camaraderie seems to come first.

As the competitors stood laughing and joking in the mixed zone, American snowboarder Sage Kostenburg told Reuters that he hoped that sense of friendship wouldn't disappear when qualifying begins on Thursday.

"I really hope not, we're all pretty good friends and we get on well, so it would be a shame if all that was to change and everyone turned up tomorrow all serious," the 20-year-old said, grinning.

"Obviously I would be so stoked to win an Olympic medal, but just the fact that slopestyle is in the Olympics for the first time is so sick. Not many people get to do this, you know?"

Kostenburg and his fellow snowboarders will be some of the first competitors in action at the Sochi Games when they begin qualifying on Thursday, a day before the opening ceremony.

The slopestyler said that qualification made the process a bit more difficult, as the athletes balance the prospect of direct qualification for the final against the need to keep something special in reserve to put them in the medal hunt.

"Qualifying is hard - you can qualify directly for the finals, but you don't want to blow your best routine straight away. You've got to keep something for the show!

"Besides, everyone knows what everyone else can do, but you've still got to keep some secrets for the crowd."   Continued...

Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris spins off a jump during slopestyle snowboard training at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Rosa Khutor, Russia February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake