Reports point to new, as yet-untried snowboard discipline set to make a shock debut at the PyeongChang Olympic Games in 2018.
Following the success of the FIS and IOC's rapid adoption of snowboard slopestyle – prior to the qualification series they had never held such an event – it is reported that both organisations are working together with the aim of fast-tracking an all-new format of snowboarding. Traditionally, new disciplines must appear as a 'demonstration sport' at the prior Games before being formally accepted in to the Olympic fold proper, but the viewing figures for the Sochi slopestyle contest were significant enough to initiate more immediate action in the sport's development. This correlates with the rumours we reported from Trysil last week, where riders were already clearly informed of the pending announcement and had begun training already – as the photograph above demonstrates.
Lycra? Our ski racers wear that all the time. It is not a problem
Now it appears to be official. In an interview with a leading French paper, Francois Nichon, development officer for FIS, said: "What with the fantastically positive feedback we received from slopestyle's debut in Sochi, it was obvious to all involved that more is better, and what better way than allowing riders to work together to present their individuality according to our creative criteria?" Nichon, who "snowboarded once" has wide-ranging plans that would reward both high rotations, synchronicity, and choice of outfit.
"It was the uniforms the athletes wore," he told Le Cul, "which meant that slopestyle – while clearly successful – didn't bring in the viewing figures we know our great sport can achieve. It was just too modest."
But, taking the lead from the success of other Olympic disciplines appears key to his vision: "Look at swimming, and the synchronised version in particular – not only are we able to marvel at the athletes' stunning physical attributes and mastery of their svelte bodies, they also use sequins and hats like snowboarders do. It will be great for the sport's visibility."
When pressed on the subject of attire being unsuitable for the mountains he retorted: "Lycra? Our ski racers wear that all the time. It is not a problem," before appearing to backtrack: "Of course, this might be problematic unless we can convince the IOC to return to Sochi, but at a minimum we would see the kind of attire commonplace in figure skating – a sport much like snowboarding, where rotations, flare and smiling are very important."
While he was more guarded about the finer points of how the competition would be judged, it seems his plans involve a course similar to the existing slopestyle, but with added features that would 'look even more spectacular', allow riders to ride closer together and embrace more often.
Figure skating – a sport much like snowboarding, where rotations, flare and smiling are very important.
Though nothing formal has been announced by FIS, it's understood this is as official as it gets. We have reached out to our friends at the TTR to see if they are planning similar events, or can offer further insight. More to follow...