Snowboarders Kick Off Winter Games

With the initial slopestyle qualification event, the 2014 Winter Olympics are underway

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The opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics won’t take place until Friday evening, but the first events were already underway Thursday in Russian host city of Sochi.

Snowboarders took to the slopestyle qualification course on Thursday, kicking off an event that’s new to the Olympics this year. Britain’s Billy Morgan was the first competitor to head down the mountain, where snowboarders navigate a downhill course with jumps and rails. Norway’s Torstein Horgmo, who broke his collarbone during practice, was at the top to see Morgan off. “I didn’t think about it until I was at the top and about to go and Torstein said ‘you’re the first one to do this in the Olympics ever,’” Morgan told AFP. “I’m stoked.”

American snowboarder Shaun White, who has won gold medals in the halfpipe at the last two Olympics, pulled out of the slopestyle competition, citing the risk of injury. Riders complained that the slopestyle course was too dangerous, prompting some modifications after Horgmo was injured while practicing on Monday. Even after the changes to the course, Finnish snowboarder Marika Enne crash-landed on the final jump and hit her head. After White jammed his wrist, he decided to withdraw to concentrate on the halfpipe.

On Thursday, the riders praised the atmosphere in the mountains. “It’s just qualifying and the stands here are half full,” Morgan said. “The Games haven’t even started yet.”