Gerhard Heiberg was here at The Oakley Arctic Challenge today. I ran into him in the teepee set up at the bottom of the course where those of us who were given (or in my case begged for) VIP wrist bands were huddled around fires, stamping our feet for warmth. He was, to use youth vernacular, rolling solo -- which is to say that he was here without any accompanying IOC cronies or fanfare, chatting warmly with everyone.
This is the first time he's seen a slopestyle contest. Other IOC officials have been to the Winter X Games and the FIS World Championships to assess the Olympic readiness of the -- do we call slopestyle a "discipline"? Does putting those two words together in one sentence send chills down your spine? Should we digress and pause here in order to take a moment of silence for the impending death of light-heartedness of an event that never had to be serious because Olympic hopefuls over at the halfpipe had already used all the serious up? Or should we save that moment for later?
Later it is, then. So The Arctic Challenge is the last event the IOC is checking out before it makes its big decision about slopestyle's future. Mr. Heiberg is the one assessing this particular contest. The event organizers have been touring him around the venue, showing him the ins and outs of the entire operation. I asked him how it was going and he said, with a gigantic smile on his face, that he was "very impressed."
Then his eyes widened as if someone had almost gotten hit by a car behind me. I turned to see what had caused the big look of surprise and saw Tyler Flanagan running the course on a widescreen TV. It looked like a warm up run (we say that now, with a yawn, when riders only throw stylish and stomped 900s instead of double cork 14s), and said as much, and Heiberg reacted to the comment with disbelief.
Then the rider after Flanagan (forgive me, I don't remember his name, but I'm thinking it maybe had an umlaut in it) did a double flip 900 -- the favorite trick of the contest, so far, it appears -- and Heiberg's jaw visibly dropped.
When the announcement is made in April, let's all act surprised. Like it was a birthday party we weren't supposed to know about, or something.
On the way home from the hill I sat next to a guy who couldn't figure out how to translate his job title from Norwegian to English, but described it as "the guy who makes sure everything runs on time." He was holding a thick packet of paper with starting times of every run of every rider in the contest -- the schedule, he explained, of when things were supposed to run on TV. The event is broadcasting live across Norway, and it can be an incredible stress when something like a delay due to a discussion in the judges room over a score throws the show off pace.
"What happened to the quarterpipe?" I asked him. The original Arctic Challenge was held on a quarterpipe, and was conceived as an "anti-contest" -- and for years all quarterpipe events made in its image were really just wonderful excuses for a bunch of pro snowboarders to get together and party. He shrugged his shoulders, the way everyone I've asked this question to so far has, and said it wasn't good for TV. Plus, he added, no one likes to hit quarterpipes anymore. Where would they even ride one these days?
I don't want to believe him. But I wonder how many of this new guard of under-22 year old future Olympians have sentimental attachments to them like those of us in the old guard do. Probably not a lot.
Anyway, here are the results for the semifinals. I don't have the women's official scores, but the usual suspects advanced, including: Jamie Anderson, Spencer O'Brien, Jenny Jones, Cheryl Maas. Since the finals run during the U.S. middle of the night, we'll find the link to the archive of the webcast tomorrow so you can watch the contest when you wake up in the morning.