The 7 Big Questions Ahead of the Olympic Halfpipe
The subplots, controversies and big tricks you can expect in the Halfpipe
After arriving at the Olympics in 1998, the Snowboard Halfpipe has become one of the blue ribbon events at any Winter Olympics. It combines bravery, precision, style and skill and pushes it's competitors to the limit in an event that takes no prisoners.
The men's event takes place on Tuesday with the women following on Wednesday. We've put together the questions that will be answered by all the action over in Sochi.
[part title="Will Shaun White Win Olympic Gold No.3?"]
Shaun White is the heavy favourite to take gold in the Men's Halfpipe competition. If he pulls it off he'll be the most successful snowboarder in Olympic history and will have won the halfpipe event in the last three games. There'll be plenty of people hoping to pip him to gold - including his own teammates but the Flying Tomato has everything he needs to win.
Achieving history is something that weighs heavily on White's shoulders as though he is only 29 he's already considering the scale of his legacy in the sport. Another huge dollop of mainstream success would help in that regard.
It's clear that White sees Tuesday's event as the biggest of the career and pulled out of the X-Games entirely before deciding against participating in the Olympic Slopestyle earlier this week in order to absolutely focus on the Halfpipe.
[part title="Will We See The First Ever Triple Cork in the Pipe?"]
There could be a treble of a different kind come Tuesday's final as it is anticipated that riders in the men's event will attempt the Triple Cork for the first time ever. Both Shaun White and Ayumu Hirano have dropped serious hints about the trick, with the American alluding to it in his Road to Sochi documentary and the young Japanese pretender pulling off the trick into an air bag.
The Triple has become a staple of Slopestyle competitions the world over but has always been seen as step too far in the pipe. Sochi's setup will allow for some serious air and given the incredible strong line-up riders should be pushed to the limit in pursuit of gold.
[part title="Will the Pipe be Good Enough?"]
Like the Slopestyle course before, it's been all the rage for the riders to lay into the setup over in Russia. Danny Davis, Torah Bright and Shaun White are amongst those who've criticised the pipe for being too narrow, too bumpy, too soft and even designed with skiers in mind.
It was clear that some of the men struggled with a worn halfpipe in the men's final and it claimed plenty of victims throughout the day including Greg Bretz, Shaun White and Ayumu Hirano.
The pipe seemed to firm up as the evening drew on and the temperatures dropped and became just about usable come the final. Much of the hard work seemed to be undone by the time where the women got involved on Wednesday morning. The 10ºC temperatures leading to a slushy pipe.
It affected the quality of the riding and seemed to have more impact on the women than the men. Here's hoping they can save it again in time for the final.
[part title="Will the Judges Get it Right?"]
Another sticking point from the weekend's slopestyle was the judging. Many people were surprised about the what the six man panel was looking for in runs. Mark McMorris felt hard done by when he landed a clean run and a triple cork and only finished seventh and it seemed like the judges were rewarding style over spins.
In the words of the eventual winner, Sage Kotsenburg: "Sometimes they're super down for the stuff and sometimes they're not. I don't know, it's crazy here." By the end of the competition riders seemed to have developed an idea of what would did well, it remains to be seen if that'll be the same come the Halfpipe contest.
[part title="Will Sarah Burke be Remembered?"]
Two years ago freeskiing lost one of its leading lights, Sarah Burke, after a fatal accident in the Halfpipe. She was a hugely popular athlete and was extremely influential and was instrumental in getting the Halfpipe event into the 2014 Sochi games.
It's a tragedy that she'll never compete in an event she was favourite to win and several athletes were keen to mark her passing in Russia. Amongst them is reigning women's snowboard Halfpipe champion, Torah Bright, who planned to display stickers honouring her friend.
However, the IOC has stepped in to prevent this, claiming that the stickers were a 'political statement', something that is banned at the Olympics. With feelings running so high we expect to see the memory of Sarah Burke honoured in some way.
[part title="Is the End of US Dominance in Sight?"]
It's not overstating it to call the USA a Halfpipe superpower. Since 2002 they've won five of the six gold medals on offer and won two thirds of the available medals. This time around the two big favourites are American once more, Kelly Clark and Shaun White, but they'll be facing an all out assault from around the world.
Shaun White's aura of invincibility has faded in the last couple of years and both Ayumu Hirano and Iouri Podladchikov will be keen to prove that they're more than just pretenders to the throne. The pair have got the tricks and it'll be interesting to see Shaun White can match them after keeping competitions to a minimum in the past year. Kelly Clark has been pretty unstoppable amongst the female riders but will have to beat the reigning champion, Torah Bright, and Queralt Castellet, in a bid to win her second gold medal.
Having won the Halfpipe gold back in 2010 in Vancouver, you'd forgive Torah Bright for just focusing on defending her medal in one event. Not for Bright who has completed the unprecedented feat of qualifying for three different Olympic snowboarding disciplines.
On her day Bright is one of the smoothest and most controlled snowboarders in the pipe but it remains to be seen what impact dividing her attentions across three different disciplines will have on her performance in her preferred event.
While the Australian claims that "it's all just snowboarding" she'll have been getting her head around boarder cross while her rivals will have been solely focused on taking her Halfpipe gold.