By Devon O’Neil
ESPN Action Sports
January 5, 2012
The road to the inaugural Olympic halfpipe skiing gold medal rounded another corner Wednesday, as U.S. Freeskiing — the newly formed arm of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association — named nine athletes to its first Pro Halfpipe Team. This comes on the heels of the IOC’s decision in April to add ski halfpipe to the Olympic program for 2014.
Winter X Games champions Simon Dumont and Jen Hudak headlined the team, which was selected based on competition results from last winter. They are joined by David Wise, Torin Yater-Wallace, Gus Kenworthy, Tucker Perkins, Devin Logan, Jess Cumming and Brita Sigourney. Mike Jankowski, the halfpipe coach for the U.S. Snowboard Team, is working in a similar capacity with skiers until more funding allows the organization to name a coach.
“At this point, my role is to be a leader,” Jankowski said, noting some of the skiers have their own technical coaches. “I’m here to get this group together and create a team environment of success similar to what we have in snowboarding.”
The U.S. isn’t the first country to form an official national ski halfpipe team. France’s includes Winter X athletes Xavier Bertoni, Kevin Rolland, Thomas Krief and Benoit Valentin and Canada recently announced the members of the Canadian Ski Halfpipe Team.
The U.S. skiers attended an orientation camp this week at USSA headquarters in Park City, Utah. Among other activities, the athletes had blood drawn to “make sure everyone’s operating at an optimal level,” Jankowski said. They also were tested for fitness on a stationary bike and for strength, power and mobility by the sports science staff at the team’s Center of Excellence. Members of the USSA’s high-performance staff will analyze the results and come up with individual programs to optimize each athlete’s performance next winter, Jankowski said.