It was what everyone was thinking as they tuned in to yesterday’s inaugural men’s snowboarding slopestyle final: that they’d just “huck it” and give the new Winter Olympic sport a go.
That’s huck, with an “h”, meaning “to go for it” in snowboarder-ese. If only someone had briefed poor Hazel Irvine, the BBC commentator who cut short a post-final interview with Billy Morgan, apologising for bad language, after the 10th-placed Brit said he wanted to “go big or go home … I just thought ‘huck it!’”.
Verbal mishaps aside, Morgan, 24, and his team-mate Jamie Nicholls, 20, had armchair fans hooked on a thrilling if utterly bonkers event, which involves flying down a slope through a “terrain park” that makes the skateboarders’ lairs the length and breadth of Britain look tame. The 635m-long slopestyle course includes jumps – or kickers – plus obstacles such as boxes and rails that the snowboarders appear to levitate over, in between soaring skywards with an array of tricks, flips and spins, all with catchy names such as the “McTwist” or “double cork”.
The “backside triple 1440” that Nicholls landed on his first run down the Rosa Khutor mountainside was good enough to merit sixth place, which, believe it or not, made the Yorkshireman Britain’s best-placed male Winter Olympian at any snow (rather than ice-based) event. (The unfortunate Alain Baxter’s Salt Lake City bronze in 2002 was taken away after an unfortunate Vicks inhaler incident.) The gold – the first of the Sochi Games – went to Sage Kotsenburg of the US, with Norway’s Staale Sandbech getting silver, and Canada’s Mark McMorris the bronze.
Britain’s reputation for winter sport being what it is, the gnarly (more snowboarding lingo for you, Irvine) Brits have been dubbed the “fridge kids” because of where they train: mainly at indoor snow domes. That said, Nicholls started out at Halifax Ski and Snowboard Centre, which was originally covered with nothing more exciting than bristly brush known as Dendix, upgraded in 2000 to Snowflex. Either way, Halifax is no Val d’Isère, so it’s a bit of a miracle Brits are up there with the best in the world at an Alpine event.
Nicholls, who fell on his second run, was thrilled with how the pair did. “I’m happy we both made the final and got a top 10 finish. I don’t usually fall off the rails, but I’m really proud. The level was so high. If we have the facilities in the UK then maybe we’ll see some Brits on the podium in the next one.”
Before then, Brits Aimee Fuller and Jenny Jones compete in the women’s snowboard slopestyle semis from 6.30am GMT. Jones, 33, making her Olympic debut, has been at the top for more than a decade.
Whatever happens, one thing is certain: it’s all bound to make hucking good telly. And just for the record, Irvine, that’s not a misprint.