Crash and burn
The Olympics bails on female snowboarders
Leah Scheitel // Contributor
The Olympic Games are intended to be the beacon of sports at the highest level. Everything has the air of a good manicure to ensure the highest level of competition possible, from the athletes to the coaches and the stadiums. But even when female snowboarders have done everything they can to perform at their best, Mother Nature was a bitch and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were dicks, and ruined their slopestyle event in PyeongChang.
The ladies roster faced huge challenges, including winds up to 31 km/per hour – conditions so dangerous, no one would have ridden in them given the choice. But the ladies weren’t really given the choice. The weather was so bad they weren’t even permitted to have qualifiers, changing the format of the entire competition. Ideally, the qualifiers would have weeded out the competition, whittling the roster to 12 ladies with the highest score. They would advance to the finals where the highest score of three runs would determine the winner. Because officials decided to cancel qualifiers due to weather and time constraints, 26 women competed, allowing for only two runs each. Carnage is the best way to describe the event. Four out of five ladies bailed on one or both of their runs, and even Jamie Anderson, who won the event, said her run wasn’t that impressive – she was just able to land her tricks. This wasn’t showcasing the sport to the best of its abilities. This was forcing snowboarders to compete in such dangerous conditions that they were lucky no one was seriously injured.
While gold-medal winner Jamie Anderson told the Washington Post that she was “down for whatever” in regards to the conditions, many of her competitors expressed their disappointed with the IOC’s decision to move forward with the event – as they should. They have been painstakingly training for this event for four years but the untamable weather made it look like an amateur competition.
Canadian Spencer O’Brien was hoping this event would be a redemption, after a disappointing performance due to a mysterious illness at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. She finished 22nd after backing out of a jump in the middle of final run.
“At the very least … our opinions are taken into consideration. And that wasn’t done here, on either day,” O’Brien told the Globe and Mail. “I think 90 per cent of the women did not want to ride today.”
This event wasn’t just a disappointment to the competitors who have dedicated the last for years to this one event – it was a disappointment to the sport as a whole. Women’s events have the difficult challenge of constantly being compared to their male counterparts. Throughout the history of competitive snowboarding, the male competitions are often viewed as the height of performance, with little to no regard for the female competition. The dangerous conditions served as a handicap for the sport. Many people are only exposed to snowboarding on the Olympic stage, so in the eyes of many people, women aren’t as strong as snowboarders as men – as lady after lady bailed and didn’t even try any of the impressive tricks they have mastered. This flawed perspective of the ladies’ slopestyle snowboarding will likely stick for the next four years, and that isn’t what the Olympic Games are for. The Olympics have failed the sport by allowing this event to go ahead, with little regard to the athletes they were putting in harm’s way.