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|by Al Campbell
VANCOUVER Astros Carlos Correa Jersey , July 7 (Xinhua) -- With the debut of slopestyle and ski halfpipe as official Olympic sports at next year's Sochi Games, Canadian freestyle skiers will be prominent in Russia.
The two extreme sports join moguls, aerials and ski cross as the five disciplines under the freestyle skiing umbrella. The problem for Canada, a country where its winter Olympians have had far greater medal success than their summer Games counterparts, is the limited amount of spots available.
Under the International Olympic Committee rules, the strong Canada squad can only get 26 places Astros Carlos Beltran Jersey , male or female, in total across the five disciplines. As it is, in a country where the freestyle skiing program includes world champions, Winter X Games gold medalists and others who have graced World Cup medal podiums, several top Canadian athletes will miss Sochi in a numbers game.
"Our program is very, very strong across all of freestyle Astros Brian McCann Jersey , so we're kind of competing with each other for spots," said Mike Riddle, Canada's top medal hope in men's ski halfpipe, while doing summer training atop Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, British Columbia.
"Just getting an Olympic spot is tough and some guys who are top 10 in some of the freestyle (disciplines) won't be going to the Olympics, which is pretty crazy."
As the 2011 world champion and the winner of the crystal globe as the top point getter on the World Cup circuit this past season Astros Andy Pettitte Jersey , Riddle, a 27-year-old Edmonton native, is a virtual lock for an Olympic berth as he only needs a top-12 finish at a FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup event next season to qualify.
Other prominent men on the Canadian halfpipe team include Justin Dorey who won the Dew Tour in Colorado in December, Noah Bowman, third at the Sierra Nevada World Cup event in March, and Matt Margetts Astros Alex Bregman Jersey , who has posted several podium near-misses.
"We're a little envious of the other countries that get to send four and four (in ski halfpipe and slopestyle), cause we're fighting for our four," said Riddle who listed the Americans, New Zealand and France as Canada's main medal competition.
"But it's pretty cool to be part of such a strong team and we're going to send some pretty strong competitors in every discipline, so that's cool."
The Canadian team received a severe setback in January 2012 when Sarah Burke, the squad's star performer Roy Oswalt Jersey , died after sustaining a head injury while training in Utah. A week after the death of the four-time Winter X Games superpipe gold medalist, teammate Rosalind Groenewoud won the same event in Colorado and dedicated the win to her close friend.
Since then, 'Roz G,' as she is known, has assumed the mantle as the leader of the Canadian women. This past season the 2011 world champion finished second on the World Cup circuit on the strength of a win and five top-three podium finishes.
"It's pretty exciting that halfpipe skiing is going to be in the Olympics. I think it's not a sport that a lot of people are familiar with. I often get asked if I'm actually a snowboarder," said the 23-year-old who grew up in Calgary where she started skiing as a child.
Groenewoud Preston Tucker Jersey , who calls "flying through the air" the best part about her sport, leads an equally-strong women's halfpipe squad that includes fellow Albertans Keltie Hanson, the 2011 worlds bronze medalist, and Megan Gunning, a 20-year-old who won the silver medal at the 2009 world championships.
With plans to compete in three or four World Cup events and the Winter X Games in preparation for the Olympics, Groenwoud said many people will likely get hooked by the excitement of the sport once they see it being done in Sochi.
"I think the Olympics has been looking to get more youthful Norichika Aoki Jersey , which is one of the reasons they added ski halfpipe, snowboard slopestyle and ski slopestyle, and I'm excited for them to debut at the Games."
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