A thrill-ride sport combining skill, stamina and fearlessness, snowboard often delivers international fame for those athletes with enough mettle to claim medals in globally-renowned championships such as the Olympic Winter Games.
A long way coming and always evolving
First developed in the United States in 1960, snowboard was embraced as a formal discipline at Nagano 1998 and its thrills and spills have ensured an unwavering popularity ever since.
It’s easy to see why: the sport delivers substance and style in equal scoops. During PyeongChang 2018, Phoenix Snow Park will host slopestyle (men’s medals February 11, women’s February 12), half-pipe (women’s February 13, men’s February 14), snowboard cross (men’s February 15, women’s February 16) and parallel giant slalom (both finals February 24). Snowboard’s new discipline, big air, takes place at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre (women’s medals February 23, men’s February 24).
Artistry will feature heavily alongside both speed and endurance.
More than just a discipline
The parallel giant slalom is a head-to-head event involving two athletes who will race down two gated courses (red and blue). The athletes will travel down both courses, with times combined to determine the fastest in an exciting knockout event.
— Olympic Channel (@olympicchannel) December 1, 2016
Snowboard’s most famous discipline is probably the half-pipe, in which athletes speed down a semi-circular slope while performing a series of injury-defying stunts, including jumps, twists and mid-air rotations. A team of six judges then assess each run according to technique, jump height and degree of difficulty.
Comprising teams of four to six athletes, the snowboard cross is a race along a course of jumps, banks and rollers. Results are decided by the order in which the athletes cross the finishing line.
The big air competition is a judged event during which athletes will speed down a hill while executing stylish tricks such as frontside 1080-degree spins from jumps built into the course.
Meanwhile, slopestyle twins bravery with artistic flair as athletes move down a course using specially positioned rails, boxes and ramps – selected by the competitors themselves – to make jumps, spins and flips. These are then ranked by a panel of six expert judges.
Challenging the top
Traditionally, the United States have dominated the snowboard medal table during the five Olympic Winter Games in which it has featured, claiming 24 medals in total.
The forthcoming competition could follow a familiar pattern, as 17-year-old Chloe Kim is looking to repeat her impressive achievements from 2016 when she became the first woman from the US to win a snowboard gold medal at the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Winter Games.