Snowboarders and Freestylers Pull their Weight in US Medal Tally


Freestyle ski competitors and snowboarders were among the main contrinutors to Team USA's medal total at PyeongChang 2018.

The extreme sports contributed around half the medals won by the Americans -- five of the nine golds and 11 of the total tally of 23.

“It has been a crazy ride and I am super proud of everybody,” said Mike Jankowski, head coach of the Team USA Ski and Snowboard team.

“It is an honour to be a part of these athletes and the staff that put their heart and soul into making the athletes the best.”

Team USA have been top dogs in snowboarding since the sport's introduction to the Olympics in 1998 but this time around the importance of the extreme sports to the overall medal total was more noticeable than ever.

With the addition of big air snowboarding to the Olympic programme in Pyeongchang, Team USA saw even more success in PyeongChang 2018.

“It has been amazing to have this level of success. It is never easy, in fact it gets more and more difficult every Olympic cycle,” Jankowski told Reuters outside Phoenix Snow Park, the venue where the golds were won.

“We have got more nations putting in a ton of funding, a ton of effort into being the best in the world and so it just makes it that much more difficult for us.

"As a coach, as competitors and as a team, we love the grind, we love the journey and to be on top feels great.”

The first Team USA medal of the Games went to 17-year-old Red Gerard, who claimed gold in the men’s snowboard slopestyle on Feb. 11.

With established stars and multi-gold medallists such as Shaun White, Jamie Anderson and David Wise being joined by teenagers such as Gerard and Chloe Kim, the U.S. team have been a leading force on the slopes here, alongside Canada.

White and Kim won half-pipe golds, Anderson won the women's slopestyle and Wise took the ski half-pipe honours.

The US Ski and Snowboard programme relies on donations and sponsorship for 100 percent of its funding and Jankowski hopes success in Pyeongchang will lead to financial benefits down the line.

“US Ski and Snowboard is so lucky to have a community of donors, fans of the sport, corporate partners who are able to lend their finances to us, in order to get done what we need to get done,” he said.

“I think the way we repay everyone is through medals and through success and so to be able to be successful here is something that we obviously strive for all the time. We hope that it translates into more fans and into our community, our donor base becoming stronger and hopefully giving us more capability for us to do what we do out there.”

Jankowski, who has been part of the US coaching set-up since 2006, was keen to point out that the U.S. has traditionally fared better at Olympics held in North America, with the team's best ever performances at a Winter Games coming in Vancouver and Salt Lake City.

(Reuters)

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