By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer
ZHANGJIAKOU, China (AP) – Two -time defending Olympic champion Jamie Anderson and his fellow snowboarders will soon ride the Great Wall – a snow replica of it, however.
Course makers at the Beijing Games built a carved, block-by-block structure on top of the slopestyle course as a tribute to China’s iconic monument. This version is not thousands of miles long, but just long enough to serve a unique backdrop for rails and jumps.
There is also a practical purpose – protection from strong winds.
“We’re happy to be here and build a bold, creative and culture-connected course,” Janis Jansons, the head builder, said in a sneak-peek video released by the International Ski Federation.
The video featured a look at what went into making the unique structure. Workers used cranes, shovels and saws to carve the image of the Great Wall. There is also a guard house.
“I would say the Olympics always go on all courses,” Anderson said. “It’s pretty fierce.”
The course will be officially shown for the first time on Saturday as part of the women’s snowboard slopestyle qualifying. It’s a course that the riders didn’t have much time to learn, which adds another level of intrigue.
“What’s cool about the Olympics compared to any other event is it’s always on a completely new mountain with a new set-up, so everyone goes there blind,” Anderson said. “It’s a good challenge.”
Another unique element with a slopestyle course is some jumps with techniques that are angled to the kickers rather than straight-on. They are unlike most jump riders that come from, for example, the Dew Tour or the Winter X Games. But this style was featured at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
“I haven’t seen them anywhere else,” American snowboarder Julia Marino said. “So it’s pretty interesting that they brought them back.”
This is not the first time the host country has put a taste of home in its course. At slopestyle’s debut in Sochi eight years ago, a massive replica of a Russian nesting doll was planted in the middle of the course, mostly for decoration.
The women’s final is set for Sunday and the men’s final Monday. Then, freestyle skiers will be the center of the stage at the slopestyle venue.
“I really like the visual appeal of the course,” said American freestyle skier Caroline Claire. “I have never seen a jump with a cut-out. … So that they can take the rest of the world on a slope course and so that it doesn’t look like an obstacle course on the mountain, it’s really good. ”
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