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Slopestyle could follow in footsteps of ski cross

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Anna Thompson | 22:43 UK time, Sunday, 28 February 2010

There is no doubt ski cross made a triumphant debut at the 2010 Winter Olympics. It was a firm favourite with the crowds at Cypress Mountain and millions more watched it around the world (the peak BBC television audience on that Sunday evening was four million.)

Ski cross came hot on the heels of its snowboarding counterpart, which burst on to the Games programme in Turin - and was an instant hit, thanks in no small part to Lindsey Jacobellis' infamous showboating which cost her Olympic gold.

Where once the International Olympic Committee and the freestyle movement eschewed one another - they are now very much the best of buddies with half-pipe and ski/snowboard cross firmly established.

In four years' time at Sochi in Russia another freestyle event - slopestyle - has a very good chance of being included .

If it is successful, Britain would have an excellent chance of a medal as Bristol's Jenny Jones is a double X Games gold medallist in the event.

Jenny Jones on her way to X-Games gloryJenny Jones has won back-to-back X-Games titles in slopestyle. Photo: Getty

Jones will be 33 when the Sochi Olympics come around but would dearly love to represent GB if she is injury-free and still at the top of her game.

A month ago, she became the first Brit to win back-to-back titles at the X Games - which is an invite-only event for the world's top freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

To put it into context, Shaun White (who has won the Olympic snowboard half-pipe at the last two Games) is the four-time slopestyle winner in the annual event held in Aspen, Colorado.

"From a purely selfish point of view I would like to see Jenny Jones competing on the biggest stage, the Winter Olympics," BBC snowboard commentator Ed Leigh told me.

"She is one of the best snowboarders Britain has produced and it would be fantastic to see her event included in a Winter Games."

Slopestyle sees competitors head down a course which has rails, boxes and jumps and they are judged on the their run and the difficulty level of the tricks they execute.

There is plenty of race footage if you search on the internet. If you want to see Jones, and Winter Olympian Ben Kilner (he finished 18th in the half-pipe in Vancouver) and competes in slopestyle, they will be at the Brits - the British freestyle ski and snowboard championships, in Laax, Switzerland from 21-28 March.

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Ed Leigh and Graham Bell discuss whether new sports such as ski-cross and snowboarding are the future of the Winter Olympics after their success in Vancouver. (UK users only)

Leigh added: "Slopestyle deserves to get into the Olympics because it is much more relevant to modern snowboarding than parallel giant slalom, which pretty much has the same guys racing who were there in Nagano in 1998 and Salt Lake City in 2002.

"PGS is a poor cousin of alpine skiing and it's not a progressive part of snowboarding like slopestyle is.

"Snowboard cross and ski cross have proved immensely popular since their inclusion and If the Olympic movement wants to remain contemporary, then their goal should be to get both ski and board slopestyle in the 2014 Games in Sochi.

"If they need any sports to make way, in my opinion the PGS should go in snowboarding and aerials in skiing."

It seems slopestyle's inclusion is not just a pipe dream - pardon the pun - as the sport has powerful allies who have seen its popularity rise and realise its importance in engaging the audience - especially the younger generation.

Marcel Looze, snowboard director at the International Ski Federation, told me: "I am definitely pushing slopestyle for Sochi."

And Christophe Dubi, the International Olympic Committee's sports director, said: "Slopestyle is an event we will consider adding. This is something we see in every resort across Europe, America and Asia and we could consider it in future."

While Jones heads the British pack at the moment, the country also boasts a number of potential slopestyle stars including Jamie Nicholls and Nate Kearn in snowboarding and Paddy Graham and Murray Buchan in skiing.

Brits organiser Stuart Brass said: "We've got the cream of the crop when it comes to up-and-coming talent in slopestyle, so if it was to become an Olympic event it would certainly be good news for Britain."

The wheels to make slopestyle eligible for the 2014 Games are already in motion as in February it was included at a World Cup event for the first time.

It will also need to feature in two FIS World Championships - and next year's snowboard gig in Spain is being touted for this.

It looks like the future is very definitely freestyle. Could it provide Britain with their first Winter Olympic medal on snow?

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