- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - Keri Herman just laughs when asked if she feels like a mother hen out on the mountain in a sport littered with teenagers and 20-somethings.

Last time the 30-year-old American slopestyle skier checked, there were no guidelines on how long you can make a living flinging yourself over a series of slick rails and mettle-testing jumps.

“Our sport is so young we don’t even know how old you can get,” she said. “We’re still the first ones doing it.”

Getting through will be difficult in a deep and talented field. Canadians Kaya Turski, Kim Lamarre and Dara Howell took three of the top four spots in the X Games last month, with the only skier separating them - American Maggie Voisin - out of the Olympics due to a fractured leg.

“I definitely think (a sweep) is possible,” Howell said. “I think it is going to be a good show and USA has a really strong squad too. We will try to break their run of winning (snowboarding) slopestyle.”

A few days after slopestyle snowboarding provided an electric Olympic debut, slopestyle skiing follows suit. The equipment might be different, but many of the tricks are the same. Spins, flips and fancy grabs are all part of the show, with some of them starting with the skiers riding backward down the hill.

Oh, and did they forget to mention the prospect of having four things - two poles and two skis - to obey marching orders instead of just one board?

“I’m a skier, so I think we’re a little bit cooler than the snowboarders,” American Devin Thomas said.

Herman, a former hockey player, wasn’t drawn to the sport for its cool factor. She loved the snow. She loved challenging herself to see what she could do and she loved that she could see it growing.

Now she’s at the Olympics, validation of sorts for her decision to stick with it after she found sponsorship offers dry up as she eased her way out of slopestyle’s target demographic.

“I’ve struggled with sponsors recently just because of the number on paper,” she said, referring to her age. “It’s frustrating. It is specifically because of my age.”

A medal, perhaps a gold one, on the challenging Rosa Khutor Extreme Park course would make history, but Herman is also aware it might not lead to businesses beating down her door to give her the kind of money that means she can stop the side jobs she works to make ends meet.

“Will it help, you never know,” she said. “It would be nice to find out.”

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