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Freestyle Skiing

Freestyle skiing was a demonstration sport at Calgary in 1988.


Freestyle Skiing
Winter Olympics

TORINO, Italy (CNN) -- While other sporting disciplines boast a pedigree stretching back as far as the eye can see, freestyle skiing competition is said to have developed in the United States at the start of the last century.

Mixing downhill skiing with acrobatics, freestyle skiing was officially recognized in 1979, which codified rules and designated limits to jumping techniques.

How it is done

The competition is divided into two events. In the freestyle aerials, competitors perform two jumps with acrobatic manoeuvres in a qualification round, from which the top 12 advance to the final round.

Points are awarded for take-off, artistic merit of the manoeuvre and landing. They are then multiplied by the degree of difficulty to arrive at a final score.

In the moguls, skiers must navigate a heavily moguled course between 220 meters and 270 meters long, while also performing two jumps. The jumps are made from two small ramps, the first positioned 50 meters from the start of the course and the second 50 meters from the end.

The jumps must be different and can include several manoeuvres. Points are awarded for performance over the moguls and in the air and for speed down the course.

A third event, acroski, is not an Olympic sport.

What makes it hard

While there are no set manoeuvres a freestyle aerial skier must perform, more demanding jumps earn higher scores. Forward jumps consist of horizontal rotations and twists; backward jumps feature spins and somersaults, although no more than three somersaults per jump are allowed.

Wood chips have to be scattered over the landing area, as skiers tend to be unable to judge where the ground is while they are in the air.

Competitors in the moguls must perform mid-air manoeuvres and rotations while also completing the moguls course as quickly as possible. Several manoeuvres can be performed in each jump, but the skier needs to quickly resume the proper position for moguls skiing as they land.

Skiers must use their knees as shock absorbers as they ski the moguls, which are placed 3.5 meters apart over the length of the course, which slopes at an angle of between 28 and 32 degrees.

Time is important too, determining 25 percent of the final score, so the best line down the course must be found.

Decoding the Jargon

You may hear some unfamiliar terms in the expert commentary at the freestyle skiing during the Games. Here is what some of them mean:

Backscratcher: A manoeuvre in which the skier touches his or her back with the rear tips of both skis, with the legs together and knees bent backwards. An "iron cross" is the same manoeuvre but with skis crossed.

Daffy: A manoeuvre in which the skier sticks one leg straight out in front and the other leg straight out behind. The front ski points up and the back ski points down.

Fall line: The line the skier must find to complete the course as quickly as possible, combining the steepest pitch with the most direct route to the finish. It is, of course, unmarked.

Helicopter: A full 360-degree upright turn in mid-air.

Rudy: A flip with one-and-a-half twists. A "half, rudy, full" would be a series of flips with half a twist, one-and-a-half twists and a full twist.

Slapback: A poor landing in which the skier falls on his or her back before continuing on.

Trough: A rut that runs between the moguls on the course. A reverse trough is a technique in which skiers ski in the opposite direction to the ruts.

Which means you can sound like an expert by saying: "A half, full, rudy and into a backscratcher? I'd have finished it with a daffy."

Did you know?

To protect their safety, skiers must present judges with a list of manoeuvres they intend to attempt, known as a "flight plan". All original jump manoeuvres must be cleared in advance.

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