Freestyle skiing first appeared as a demonstration event at the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games. Mogul skiing, over a bumpy slope, was added as an official medal event at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville. The aerials event was added for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, while ski cross had its debut at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Freestyle in Russia
Freestyle skiing first came to the USSR in the 1970s. The first national freestyle competitions took place in February 1986 near the village of Gorki in Moscow Oblast. And in 1985, the independent USSR Freestyle Federation was formed.
The Olympic freestyle events include mogul skiing, aerials, ski cross, ski halfpipe, and ski slopestyle. Ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle were added to the Olympics in 2011. Both men and women participate in each type of event. A total of ten sets of medals are awarded for freestyle.
The mogul event is a descent down a bumpy slope. Athletes are required to perform two jumps on their way through the course. The competitors receiving the highest score for their overall performance are declared the winners. Scores are determined by judges who evaluate how well the moguls are navigated and the quality and difficulty of the jumps. Judges also add points for speed according to a special formula.
The aerials event includes a qualifying round and a final round. In each, athletes complete two special ski jumps each. The athletes with the highest combined scores from the two jumps advance to the finals. Scores from the qualifying round do not carry over to the finals. For each jump, athletes are judged on their technique for jump takeoff, jump form, and landing.
The ski cross event includes a qualifying round and a final round. In the qualifying round, athletes race individually down a course approximately 1000 meters long with turns and obstacles. The athletes with the best times are then divided into groups of four and compete to determine who advances to the next round of competition. The two top finishers continue to compete, while the losers are eliminated. Athletes reaching the final round compete for the medals.
Ski halfpipe. Athletes perform on a halfpipe slope on freestyle skis, performing various tricks — somersaults, flips, grabs, and twists. The competition format includes qualifying and final rounds, with two runs per athlete in each round. Places are determined according to the total number of points in the final.
Ski slopestyle. Athletes perform on a slope with various types of obstacles (rails, quarter-pipes, and jumps). The technical characteristics of the course are dictated by the rules of the International Ski Federation. The competition follows an elimination format, with semifinals and finals, with two runs in each round. The top finisher wins.
- Men’s mogul skis are usually around 180 cm long, and women’s skis 170 cm. In aerials, a single length of ski is used, 160 cm long. Ski cross uses the same skis as Super G.
- Ski poles help the skier maintain balance and allow him to accelerate.
- In moguls, the color of the knee pads often contrasts with that of the ski suit in order to draw the judges’ attention to the skier’s expertise.
- Ski boots must provide sufficient support to allow an athlete to withstand the force of impact when landing.
- The helmet is made of stiff plastic and protects the athlete’s head during training and competition.