Exclusive: Terje Haakonsen Talks Olympics

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Exclusive: Terje Haakonsen Talks Olympics

Terje about to drop at TAC. Photo: Espen Lystad.

On the eve of the perhaps the most hyped contest of all time, Onboard ed in chief Danny Burrows has a few words with shredgend Terje to see what he thought of the contest he famously flipped the bird to at the height of his pipe powers.

Snowboarding’s inclusion in the winter Olympic’s was once a contentious subject, although those opposing the union seem fewer and less vociferous these days. Objections range from the governance of snowboarding by the FIS (a ski federation that in the past was vehemently anti-snowboarding), the flag-flying and wearing of uniforms that appears to contradict the spirit of riding, and the International Olympic Committee’s stringent rules of qualification and participants’ sponsorship. For example the IOC insists that sponsors remove their participating riders from any promotional material before and during the Games – hence the disappearance of the top rippers from sites and advertising – presumably to not offend the Olympics’ corporate sponsors.

In 98, with snowboarding’s first curtain call at the Games looming, Terje was focussed on by the media – rather than of his own making – as the band leader of the anti-Olympics movement. Therefore on the eve of what will be snowboarding’s fourth appearance in the Olympics we thought it fitting to put a few questions to him on what he though of snowboarding’s tempestuous union with the event.

If you were in the same position this year as you were back in ‘98 would you take the same stance?
Terje Haakonsen: Yes, I would and I would actually be loud and make a point of it. In 97-98 it was only a few interviews [I did] that got the press to go nuts. Now I know way more about the IOC and their connections with the FIS. It seems like everybody forgot the IOC scandals that went public and now the sheep are just following again.

I would fight for my sport to be treated fairly and make sure progression and snowboarding were presented as the rider would like it to be. The IOC is still drilling everybody with their strict rules that benefits them and not sports. I can’t believe they all accept it. The Olympics is good for every sport, it get media attention all over the world, but, man, they control all the guys that want to go there.

What do you think of the standard of riding that has emerged since the NZ Open?
It’s amazing to see that the level is still rising this much. It would be nice to see a little different pipes, though. They could use their creativity and shape the snow a little differently, so we could see new ways [of riding], combos and lines.

Also the format has become pretty stale I think. The golden run format works, but it’s almost like you know your placing before you start because you know all the guys’ runs and if you stick yours you know where you will end up. Like the double cork now – if you don’t have it, you won’t be top three or five, or next month 10th maybe.

It would be nice to see more tricks and variations, there is a lot more than 8 tricks and combos that is hard and looks good, I think. That might be more fun for the guys, too, and hopefully less guys would get hurt! So many guys will get hurt this season trying to make the golden run.

What do you think about this whole private pipes and airbags for practice thing?
I’m sure it is very good for learning new tricks. Unfortunately there are very few that have the chance to do this. I’m sure some guys think this is weak and not snowboarding, but when the level is that high and the crashes that hard, it’s only good to ease into it.

Now, over in Vancouver as d-day approaches, a shaping crew from Arena Snowparks has been working on the pipe for the past two weeks battling rain and unseasonably warm temperatures with an armoury of salt and freezing agents. These conditions have also lead to training days being cut from five to three days, which is still not bad considering riders usually only have two to train on the Open series.

Tomorrow, the best male pipe riders in the world will be tearing Cypress Mountain’s pipe a new arsehole, with the women following up 24 hours later. Although, Shaun is favourite for gold and apparently has already booked a global victory tour with his PR team, the competition is still open. Sadly, two contenders will not be dropping – Danny Davis and Kevin Pearce – but we are sure that every run will be dialled with them in mind.

Here’s wishing them both a fast and full recovery, and may the best man and woman on the day win.


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