Breaking the Ice

New events give countries a shot at first ski medals

Beau-James Wells, flying high for the Kiwis in Sochi.

Beau-James Wells, flying high for the Kiwis in Sochi. PHOTO: Darcy Bacha/Atomic

Slopestyle and halfpipe skiing have given the 2014 Winter Olympics an added dose of excitement. But they've also provided something else: a legitimate podium chance to countries with little Winter Olympic success.

"It means the world to be able to compete in my favorite sport for my country in the Olympics," says Peter Adam Crook, a halfpipe skier for the British Virgin Islands. "It's exciting knowing I could be the first Olympian to receive a medal for the British Virgin Islands. The thought gives me chills."

Crook has lived in the U.S. for 11 years, but was born and raised in the tropical British colony 60 miles off the Puerto Rican coast. After moving to Wisconsin at age 9, Crook picked up skiing and went pro a few years later, eventually moving to Park City, Utah, and grabbing second at last year's The North Face Park and Pipe Open at Copper Mountain. Still, when it came to international competition, there was no doubt which country he'd represent.

"It has been my plan to ski for the British Virgin Islands since I realized that I could actually start skiing competitively," says the 21-year-old.

Crook created his country's ski team, British Virgin Islands Ski Association, and looks to become the first athlete to medal for the island chain.

But he isn't alone. Crook is joined by another group of slopestyle and halfpipe athletes that hope to make medal history for their respective nations.

The best known: slopestyle star James Woods from Great Britain. Growing up skiing dry-slope (read: slick carpet), "Woodsy" was the first British man to win a ski World Cup event, a World Championship medal (silver), and an X Games medal (bronze)--all in the last year. He'll try to continue that momentum and become the first English participant, man or woman, to stand on the Olympic podium at a ski event.

Other notables include the high-flying Wells brothers from New Zealand, Jossi, Byron and Beau-James. All three have managed success on the professional stage, making a top-three finish a viable possibility for at least one of the Kiwis.

Athletes from countries with no Olympic ski medals to watch in Sochi

Name: James Woods
Country: Great Britain
Sport: Slopestyle
Stat: 1st 2012 Argentina World Cup , 2nd 2013 World Championships, 3rd 2013 X Games Slopestyle
What to know: One of the best jumpers in the world, also rocks a Skrillex sidecut hair-do with the occasional Union Jack dye-job

Name: Jossi Wells
Country: New Zealand
Sport: Slopestyle, Halfpipe
Stat: 2nd 2013 Euro X Games slopestyle (Tignes), 2nd 2010 X Games Superpipe, 2nd 2008 X Games Slopestyle
What to know: One of the few legitimate podium threats in both disciplines and the Johnny Cash of skiing--all black, all the time.

Name: Byron Wells
Country: New Zealand
Sport: Halfpipe
Stat: 3rd 2010 Aspen Open
What to know: The second oldest Wells brother throws a massive alley-oop 540 Japan toward the end of his halfpipe run

Name: Peter Adam Crook
Country: British Virgin Islands
Sport: Halfpipe
Stat: 2nd TNF PPOS
What to know: Big tail grabs and a surf-infused style, first skier to represent BVI in the Olympics

Name: Joey Van Der Meer
Country: Netherlands
Sport: Slopestyle
Stat: 2nd 2012 Level 1 Superunknown Contest
What to know: Born to Dutch parents, grew up living and skiing in Oregon with the Hood Crew

Name: Rowan Cheshire
Country: Great Britain
Sport: Women's Halfpipe
Stat: 2nd TNF New Zealand Open
What to know: One of the youngest competitors at the Olympics at 18, learned to ski on dry slope

Name: Janina Kuzma
Country: New Zealand
Sport: Women's Halfpipe
Stat: 11th overall 2013/'13 World Cup
What to know: Skied on Freeskiing World Tour, focusing on halfpipe for chance at an Olympic medal

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