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Snowboard cross makes debut at Turin Winter Games
Wednesday, 18 January 2006
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Snowboard cross makes its Olympic debut in Turin next month, bringing together the Alpine skills of the parallel giant slalom and the acrobatic thrills of half pipe in an bid to further boost snowboarding’s popularity.

The addition of a third snowboarding discipline to the Games programme caps a remarkable rise for a sport which began to fully develop in the United States only in the 1970s.

They are now excited by the prospect of a third version of snowboarding at the Winter Games. “The FIS suggested the change of giant slalom to parallel giant slalom after research and interviews with athletes,” said FIS spokesman Oliver Kraus. “Now, the FIS is proud that snowboard cross will celebrate its debut as an Olympic discipline offering another enthralling format of snowboarding to the world. In Turin, the world’s best riders will compete in three disciplines.”

Frequent crashes: Snowboard cross, or SBX as it has become known, takes place on a course built by a technician or a “shaper” and is made up of different sections including “whoops” or moguls, kickers, waves, banks and spines — 90-degree jumps. Competitors must navigate a series of blue and red gates and triangular flags which point to entrances to obstacles.

In Turin, the 32 athletes with the best times of two qualification runs will enter the finals. Four athletes then race side-by-side in the finals with the first two to reach the finish line in each heat advancing to the next stage. Snowboard cross is similar to parallel giant slalom in that competitors race simultaneously. However, the riders are on the same course in snowboard cross and crashes often occur. It has been compared to speed skating and even Formula One motor racing for the thrills and spills it generates.

“There are guys on the tour that play dirty and you don’t want to draw them in your heats. You’re bummed out when you do and you know that it could definitely come to physical conflict during that run,” Seth Wescott, the 2005 snowboard cross world champion, was quoted as saying by NBC.

Medal contenders: The discipline has become a favourite at the Winter X games, the unofficial world championship for extreme sports held outside the FIS’s remit. Olympic medal contenders also include Canadian Jasey-Jay Anderson, who is regularly on top of the men’s world rankings and was a favourite in the parallel giant slalom in Salt Lake City in 2002 but failed to qualify for the finals.

Anderson won gold in the parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom events at the 2005 world championships. Motocross, mountain biking and snowboarding icon Shaun Palmer, 37, is struggling for a spot on the US team and a tilt at the medals after personal problems but France’s Xavier Delerue and Italy’s Simone Malusa are in the hunt. In the women’s event, 2005 world champion Lindsey Jacobellis from the US is hotly tipped and is also set to ride in the half pipe while Austria’s Manuela Riegler and Doresia Krings are contenders. reuters

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