Following the somewhat shambolic finals of the Women’s slopestyle at the 2018 Olympics, the Federation International du Ski (FIS) – competitive snowboarding’s governing body – have released a statement that’s likely to fan the flames of controversy by telling competitors that “nobody was forced to go down and compete”.
The women’s slopestyle finals had already been rearranged at the eleventh hour after qualifying on Sunday had been postponed due to hazardous conditions. As a result, on Monday, the entire field of competitors all had two runs each, winner takes all. However, competitors found themselves battling 30mph winds, which changed direction seemingly almost by the second.
The result was a contest that Cheryl Maas, one of the most experienced riders in the field, called a “shit show.”
Canadian Spencer O’Brien also expressed her disapproval, saying “I think for wind this is the worst [contest] I’ve ever ridden in.”
FIS spokesperson Jenny Wiedeke suggested that she believed the conditions were acceptable for an Olympic snowboarding final. “We know it was very difficult conditions for the riders,” she said. “Each rider had two opportunities to perform their run. Nobody is forced to go down and compete.”
But while they weren’t “forced” to compete, it was telling that, on Monday, in a field packed with the very best female slopestyle riders on the planet (with only a few notable riders missing, including the injured Brit’ Katie Ormerod) not a single rider managed to land both of their runs, and the runs they did land were understandably conservative.
“Each rider had two opportunities to perform their run. Nobody is forced to go down and compete”
Various riders expressed concerns about their safety after the event, and disappointment that competitive snowboarding’s biggest showcase hadn’t been held under better conditions.
Norway’s Silje Norendal, who finished fourth, told Mpora “It’s just really sad, because all the girls have been working so hard, and the progression [of women’s snowboarding] has been crazy. But what we were able to show today was obviously not good at all.”
Anna Gasser, who like Silje was tipped for a medal, said: “I always have fun snowboarding normally, but today was not one of those days. It really was sketchy and a little scary, because every run was different and it was kind of a lottery.”