Halfpipe skiers feel Olympian after Sochi addition

Associated Press
FILE - This Jan. 24, 2009, file photo shows Simon Dumont biting his gold metal after winning the Skiing Big Air competition at the Winter X Games 13 at Buttermilk Ski Area, near Aspen, Colo.  In the world of ski halfpipe, Americans Jen Hudak and Dumont will consider themselves old at 27 at the 2014 Sochi Games. But sticking around will be all worth it, now that their sport has been added to the Olympics.  (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow, File)

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FILE - This Jan. 24, 2009, file photo shows Simon Dumont biting his gold metal after winning the Skiing …

Jen Hudak had breakfast while visiting New York on Tuesday with a friend she grew up skiing moguls with.

He's now an architect in the city. She's still skiing at the age of 24.

A bit in awe, the friend told her, "You're going to the Olympics."

"It's like, wow, that's crazy. We actually get to say we're on that path right now," Hudak said.

Hudak is one of the world's top halfpipe skiers, a distinction that could mean a trip to the Olympics starting with the 2014 Sochi Games. On April 6, the IOC approved the addition of men's and women's ski halfpipe — along with women's ski jumping, mixed relay in biathlon and team events in luge and figure skating.

American teammate Simon Dumont appreciates the recognition that he and his fellow competitors are Olympic-caliber athletes.

"That's one thing I think was a misinterpretation of our sport is that we are just freewheeling, crazy guys going out there, just getting crazy, doing all these spins and all this stuff," said Dumont, who won bronze in the halfpipe at this year's freestyle world championships. "I've worked really hard to make it where I am. I work hard off the hill, on the hill."

Olympic inclusion means more sponsors, which pays for better training. Not to mention more youngsters taking up the sport and more venues for them to practice.

"The cool thing about our sport is that it is freewheeling at the same time," said Dumont, who's from Bethel, Maine. "There aren't limitations to what we can and can't do. ... It's a way to really express yourself, which is something special about our sport. A lot of the sports are very traditional, and you've got to play by the same type of rules."

The skiers use the same halfpipe as snowboarders in competition. On two skis, they can generate more speed and create more visible variety to their tricks than their counterparts with both feet strapped to one board.

"There are more moving parts," said Hudak, who's from Hamden, Conn.

Dumont expects to "hide away" for the year leading up to the 2014 Games to master the tricks he'll need in Sochi. That's like nothing he's done before — he normally competes in multiple disciplines.

This is what it means to be an Olympic athlete.

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