On the cut­ting edge

Sport is chang­ing at a dizzy­ing pace com­pared to the Olympics of 20 years ago.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SPORT - By FRAN­COISE CHAPTAL and JIM SLATER

THE break­neck ski- slope an­tics of 14- year- old Kelly Sil­daru have be­come a sym­bol of the youth rev­o­lu­tion be­ing forced on the Olympics as it bat­tles for rel­e­vance.

Change is in the air when the young Es­to­nian launches into a slopestyle run, ski­ing down metal rail­ings, go­ing back­wards down an icy slope to con­front more ob­sta­cles, a 10m leap be­fore a fi­nal de­scent fac­ing the wrong way.

The scar­ily spec­tac­u­lar slopestyle is now an Olympic favourite and Sil­daru will be a baby­face to watch at the Pyeongchang Win­ter Olympics in 2018. The Es­to­nian, who was five years old when she did her first ski jumps, al­ready be­came the youngest X Games gold medal win­ner at Aspen, Colorado in Jan­uary.

When In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Thomas Bach met the first slopestyle medal win­ners at the Sochi Win­ter Games in 2014 he said they were “cool guys”.

And Bach, win­ner of a gold medal in the more staid dis­ci­pline of fenc­ing, knows that the Olympics needs “cool”.

The An­cient Olympics did not have to worry about spon­sors, tele­vi­sion rat­ings and Twit­ter. Bach does.

That is why slopestyle and snow­board par­al­lel slalom – where 15- year- old Amer­i­can Chloe Kim is the new star – joined the Win­ter Games in 2014 and beach vol­ley­ball and other new sports have be­come grow­ing stars of the Sum­mer Games.

And that is why the non- teenager Lords of the Rings who run the Olympics now have to keep a close eye on the fast chang­ing world of the X Games and other new youth sports knock­ing on the door of the Olympics.

Skateboarding on a main street in many US and Euro­pean towns can still bring a fine. But skateboarding, along with surf­ing and sport climb­ing, are among sports that could get into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“The man­age­ment of the Olympics un­der­stand what skateboarding can bring. The IOC knows what snow­board­ing has done for the Win­ter Games,” said In­ter­na­tional Skateboarding Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Gary Ream, who is no longer a teenager.

“Both sports are some­what out­laws be­cause kids dis­cov­ered a pas­sion. It’s deep. It’s more real, from the heart. It’s the spirit of youth.”

In­ter­na­tional Surf­ing As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Fer­nando Aguerre coun­tered: “Surf­ing em­bod­ies a cool, play­ful life­style that would add a com­pletely new el­e­ment to the pro­gramme.”

The IOC must make a de­ci­sion on the new Tokyo events – with sport climb­ing, karate and base­ball/ soft­ball also in con­tention – at this year’s Rio Olympics.

The X Games, launched in 1995, now has ma­jor spon­sors. The IOC re­acted by start­ing a Youth Olympics. The lat­est win­ter edi­tion was held in Lille­ham­mer, Nor­way this month.

The sum­mer youth games have fea­tured sports such as three- a- side bas­ket­ball while monobob, a one- per­son bob­sleigh, was one of seven new events in Lille­ham­mer.

Un­like two- and four- per­son bob­sled teams at the se­nior Olympics, only one per­son pushes, drives and brakes the 165kg sled down the track, reach­ing speeds of more than 128kmph.

Sport is chang­ing at a dizzy­ing pace com­pared to the Olympics of 20 years ago.

Edgar Grosp­iron, who won the first- ever moguls freestyle ski­ing gold at the 1992 Olympics in Al­bertville, France – that was also a rev­o­lu­tion – told of what it is like to be cast as a vet­eran.

“I was ski­ing at Alpe d’Huez re­cently when two kids came up to me and one said: ‘ You are Edgar Grosp­iron.’”

Grosp­iron ac­knowl­edged his iden­tity and the boy turned to his friend and said: “Wow that’s the guy who taught Can­dide Thovex how to ski!”

Thovex was the hero of freestyle and moguls ski­ing of the early 2000s who took over Grosp­iron’s man­tle, be­fore he was also ousted in the pop­u­lar­ity rat­ings.

Grosp­iron says to­day’s young skiers are al­ways look­ing for new vari­a­tions as the new sports of 10 years ago are con­sid­ered too rigid. Speedrid­ing, for ex­am­ple, where a skier lands on snow on a paraglider is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity at moun­tain re­sorts.

Some con­sider skateboarding out of date. Park­our and freerun­ning have be­come cut­ting edge ur­ban sports. Adepts have to get be­tween two points, run­ning or walk­ing, tak­ing in walls, vaults be­tween ob­sta­cles and flips over steps.

“What is im­por­tant for sport is to be per­ti­nent to young gen­er­a­tions so there are new ath­letes com­ing in at the bot­tom of the pyra­mid,” said the IOC ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Christophe Dubi.

“That goes for the rules and for­mat of the game too. The pre­sen­ta­tion, the mu­sic and light­ing are all im­por­tant,” said Dubi.

Of the new Olympic can­di­dates Dubi said that surf­ing, sport climb­ing and skateboarding are all “as much a life­style as they are a tra­di­tional sport”. – AFP

Gold Medal win­ner Chloe Kim of the United States com­petes in the Ladies’ Snow­board Half­pipe Fi­nals at Oslo Vin­ter­park Half­pipe dur­ing the Win­ter Youth Olympic Games in Lille­ham­mer, Nor­way. — Pho­tos: Agen­cies

Cool run­nings: The Youth Olympic games in Lille­ham­mer this year fea­tures sports like Freestyle Ski­ing and Monobob.

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