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US Ski team to propose Big Air for Olympics

- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The next big thing at the Winter Olympics? It could be Big Air.

A U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association leader tells The Associated Press the federation is heading to an international meeting next week with a proposal to add Big Air to the Games.

USSA snowboarding and freeskiing director Jeremy Forster told AP the federation will also propose bringing team snowboardcross to the Olympics.

In Big Air competitions, snowboarders fly off a highly pitched ramp similar to those on the slopestyle course, and perform jumps with multiple flips and spins. They do as many jumps as possible in an allotted amount of time. Forster says the time is right to pitch the new discipline after the popular debut of Olympic slopestyle in Sochi.

"The goal is to continue to push forward the most progressive and most relevant sports in snowboarding and skiing," he said.

If the events get a thumbs-up next Friday at the International Ski Federation (FIS) Congress in Barcelona, the next step would be to ask the International Olympic Committee to include them.

The IOC has long been trying to skew its audience younger, and the addition of slopestyle and halfpipe skiing were the latest moves toward that goal.

Forster said if Big Air were introduced, a jumping ramp could be built in a stadium in the Olympic host city, which would allow fans who can't make it to the mountains to see the snowboarders perform live.

"It's a great way to further promote the sport," he said.

Snowboardcross was introduced to the Olympics in 2006. A team event would look similar to the individual event, in which six riders race each other down the mountain, through tight turns and over bumps. In the relay, once a rider reaches the bottom, the gate opens for his teammate at the top.

Forster said Brazil, Austrailia and New Zealand are among the countries that have voiced support for adding the sports. The United States and Canada seem to benefit most from more action sports on the program. Those two countries combined for 23 medals in extreme sports in Sochi, where the number of action events more than doubled.

He said he has not seen any official studies that slopestyle produced an inordinate number of injuries compared to other sports. Last month, an IOC member, Lars Engebretsen, said he felt there were an unacceptably high number of injuries - an opinion that has not been backed by the full IOC.

"My personal opinion is that there's risk in every sport," Forster said. "That (Olympic) course was no different or more challenging than any other."

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