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Switzerland's Iouri Podladtchikov, left, celebrates with Shaun White of the United States after Podladtchikov won the gold medal in the men's snowboard halfpipe final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Olympics: Snowboarders have grim view of Sochi course
Olympics » After a few days of practice, competitors are struggling with halfpipe
First Published Feb 10 2014 09:35 am • Last Updated Feb 10 2014 11:10 pm

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia • Heading into Tuesday’s halfpipe competition, snowboarders are bummed.

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"The pipe sucks. It’s not fun," said U.S. rider Danny Davis.

After a few days of practice, most all of the 30 riders competing in the halfpipe appear to be struggling, slowing considerably as they raced through the slow trough. Defending medalist Shaun White looked solid two days ago but last night appeared frustrated with the pipe condition.

Deep sugary snow in the middle of the halfpipe is slowing riders as they power toward the 22-foot walls. Many were simply ollying the trough – hopping over granulated snow – during recent practice sessions.

They skidded down the bottom shaking their heads, huddling with coaches in obvious distress over the conditions.

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The halfpipe at Cypress Mountain for the 2010 Winter Olympics also was a mess before the contest. Warm weather and rain left the trough a near river. Trucks hauled snow to make repairs and the pipe was fine for competition.

One rider at Sunday night’s practice said: "They need to get Frank Wells here," calling for the legendary Snow Park Technologies pipe carver who sculpts the Aspen X Games halfpipe and most top-tier terrain parks and halfpipes.

It’s not the first time athletes have bemoaned the absence of Snow Park Technologies at the Olympics, revealing the influence of SPT on professional park riding. Many of the riders wished that Snow Park Technologies had been involved in designing the course’s features.

"Usually SPT builds all the top courses in the world and I’m not sure who built this," said Jamie Anderson after Thursday’s qualifying session, where riders worked with designers to change take-off jumps. "We are all making the best of what it is but it’s not the best course we have ever ridden."

Eventually the slopestyle course was tweaked to make it flow smoother for the riders. Anderson went on to win the women’s contest on Sunday.

There’s hope similar changes will fix the pipe before Tuesday’s qualifiers and final. Athletes who risk their lives hurling themselves off mega ramps put a lot of trust in the park designers who sculpt jumps and landings. Few can name the Russian developer who built the venues at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

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