KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) Flash back for a moment to 2002, to this:
”PARK CITY, Utah (AP) – Gold, silver, bronze. Red, white and blue.
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Snowboarders Ross Powers, Danny Kass and J.J. Thomas rendered those colors interchangeable and indivisible Monday, giving the United States its first medals sweep in the Winter Olympics in 46 years.
With chants of ”USA, USA, USA” coming from the crowd of 30,000, the three Americans made history on the halfpipe, soaring into the sunshine for an unforgettable Olympic moment. They catapulted their Gen X sport out of the fringe and into the spotlight – and put America alone on the medals stand.”
That’s the story I wrote 12 years ago while covering my first Winter Games in Park City. Change a few names and details around, and I could’ve put essentially the same top on my report from Thursday’s action.
I’ve been lucky enough to witness two of the three U.S. medals sweeps in Winter Olympic history (I wasn’t around for the first one, in 1956).
Twelve years and two days after the snowboard kids thrust their sport into the mainstream, Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper did the same thing for ski slopestyle. There weren’t 30,000 in the crowd and we were half a world away, but the bright, cloudless sky was one of the many similarities this day shared with that one.
Though snowboarding debuted at the Olympics in 1998, the show wasn’t great that year. The ”lifestyle” sport was still looking, somewhat grudgingly, for a mass audience when it arrived in Salt Lake City four years later. Powers, Kass and Thomas put on a show that locked it in.
When snowboard slopestyle was added to the Olympic program for this year, some wondered why a skiing version needed to be included, as well. Watching Goepper’s ”Screamin’ Seaman” trick, in which he crosses the skis and grabs them while doing two flips in the air, certainly answered that question. Same with seeing Christensen ski backward – yes, backward – onto one of those huge ramps, then throw three flips and land it perfectly.
Welcome to the mainstream, ski slopestylers.
– By Eddie Pells – Twitter http://twitter.com/epells