With the first ever Olympic slopestyle competition officially done and dusted, it's time to trade kickers and rails for transition and err... more transition. The Sochi 2014 men's halfpipe contest is a go from tomorrow, with qualification getting started at 11am CET, and we're pretty damn excited to say the least.
However, much like the complaints surrounding the slopestyle course last week, there have been a bunch of comments from riders suggesting that the stunt ditch at Sochi is hardly in tip top condition.
Pipe practice this morning was postoned so that the pipe could be improved in one last ditch (pun intended...) attempt. Warm temperatures in Sochi have meant that the flat bottom has become filled with loose, sugary snow, making it more difficult for riders to hold their speed and their edges when travelling from wall to wall.
"It's the Olympics. It should be flawless. What a lame showcase of snowboarding, and what a lame way to treat the athletes."
In an interview with Yahoo Sports, US pipe wizard Danny Davis was outspokenly critical of the pipe: "It's the Olympics. It should be flawless. What a lame showcase of snowboarding, and what a lame way to treat the athletes."
There has been much debate in the run up to the Olympics as to the IOC's choice of employing New Zealand based company Development Snowparks to build the Sochi pipe rather than Snow Park Technologies (SPT) who are widely regarded as the best shapers on this fine planet.
Danny D commented: "The IOC probably didn’t want to pay the right guys to do it. I’m pretty sure what they’re focused on is keeping as much money in their hands as possible. That’s the shame of it all. All these kids, myself included, worked very hard to get here. And then the pipe is just no fun, and boring, and fucked. Halfpipe is super fun. But riding a crappy pipe and having to perform in it is the worst."
American team mate Greg Bretz was equally blunt, remarking that the only way it could be made right was if Frank Wells of SPT “got on a fucking aeroplane" out to Sochi.
Working on a preview of tomorrow's men's pipe contest now. Barring a miracle, it will be good, but we won't see the tricks we expected.
— Alyssa Roenigk (@ESPN_Alyssa) February 10, 2014
And Americans weren't the only ones being critical. Defending Olympic gold medallist Torah Bright said after today's practice: “No one is able to ride their best today. We’ve had two days of training and you can’t even link a run."
We'll have to wait and see whether FIS, the IOC and the pipe builders can sort the pipe out before tomorrow's competitions begins. Of course, everybody will have the same pipe to ride on the day, but we, as do the riders, really hope they'll pull it off so that these guys and girls can do what they came to do: ride at the very highest level and put on the best show.
*UPDATE* 9.58am (CET): "The latest news filtering through about the men's halpipe is that the governing body, FIS, is conducting training runs prior to the scheduled start of the first qualification run (still scheduled for 10:00 GMT). Based on the outcome of those training runs, FIS will determine whether or not to delay the start of the halfpipe because of poor conditions."
From the sounds of things, shit has well and truly hit the fan in Sochi, and it's being widely discussed whether the planned qualification stages will actually go ahead or be cancelled, cutting straight to the semi-finals.
Half pipe drama update: new formats are being discussed to maximize the pipes shape and quality. Stay tuned !
— toddrichards (@btoddrichards) February 11, 2014
From Torah Bright's coach (and brother) Ben Bright: "I’ve come to the point of being diplomatic, but it’s actually very shit. It’s come down to the final hour, the final minute. The men’s contest is going live to the world and the Federation of International Skiing has let ego get in the way of a good contest. They barely got it [right] in Vancouver [at the Olympics in 2010] and they haven’t got it here. So fuck. Surprise surprise. It is dangerous at the moment. You’ve got a mixed event going on – moguls and halfpipe together – so it’s fucking retarded"
We'll keep you posted.
As with all of the Olympic freestyle events, we'll be live blogging the halfpipe starting with men's qualifications at 11am CET. Be sure to tune in and get involved with the chat!