For those whose life revolves around the Olympic Games, one question will undoubtedly linger: when was freestyle skiing in the Olympics? While it was a part of the Winter Olympic programme from 1928 to 1936, it was absent from the Summer Games. However, from 1968 to 1976, the Winter Games adopted an all-in-one format, with no distinction made between the two summer and winter games. As a result, the term ‘Olympic Winter Games’ (in italic) was coined.
The Evolution Of Freestyle Ski
When the Winter Olympics were reinstated, many fans were excited to see freestyle skiing return. However, the reinstatement was short-lived as the International Ski Federation (ISF) subsequently decided that freestyle skiing should be a permanent part of the Winter Olympics programme. Since then, the sport has continued to evolve and change, while still retaining its roots in speed and trick skiing.
The first real breakthrough in the history of freestyle skiing came in 1968, when the Nagano Winter Olympics was won not by the greatest peak skier, as was the case in the previous Winter Olympics, but by an all-around skier who successfully executed a single jump, a double loop and a triple jump in succession. It was a record-breaking performance that still stands as one of the all-time greatest in Winter Olympic history. The athlete, which later came to be known as Ophèle Lefèvre, would go on to win four gold medals at the Winter Olympics.
The next big step forward was taken by the 1972 Munich Winter Olympics. It was there that the modern day sport of freestyle skiing was born. The Munich games introduced the now famous ski-in/ski-out terrain park, making it possible for spectators to watch the competition close-up without having to leave the safety of their ski lodges. This was a game-changing innovation that made it possible for the average person to enjoy the thrill of Olympic-level sports without having to be an elite athlete. Moreover, it allowed for the integration of snowboarders into the sport, as well as introduced the idea of multiple events, such as the moguls and aerials, which were later added to the Winter Olympics programme.
Odds And Ends
While the evolution of traditional ski-in/ski-out skiing has been monumental, it’s not all good news. The safety standards at many of the world’s ski resorts have declined in the past few decades, putting additional pressure on the athletes to perform at their peak level. This has, in turn, resulted in several injuries to the sport’s most prominent Olympians. In 2015, British skier Jamie Anderson became the first ever double gold medallist, winning two consecutive gold medals in the men’s aerials, a biathlon-style competition, causing yet another injury to one of the greatest Olympians of all time, Chris Froome.
In the spirit of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, where the snowboard cross is held, it’s important to look back upon the history of the sport and its place in the Winter Olympics.