Golden opportunities

Gabe L'Heureux/ESPN The Mag

Mark McMorris, pictured here at Dew Tour practice in December, is considered a gold-medal favorite for both X Games and the Olympics.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Jan. 6 Story of the Season issue. Subscribe today!

In 1998 halfpipe snowboarding became the first X Games–born event to cross over to Olympic competition, and it was soon dominated by Americans. So when six more freeskiing and snowboarding events make their Olympic debuts at Sochi in February, who will be favored to bring home the gold? Even with a smaller field, X Games Aspen (Jan. 23-26) can be your rough guide.

Snowboard Slopestyle

Mark McMorris, Canada
Cred check: Landed first triple cork (a backside 1440) in competition in Aspen 2012.
Biggest threat in Aspen: Torstein Horgmo (NOR)
Biggest threat in Sochi: Shaun White (USA)

This two-time-defending X Games Aspen champ rides his best on the biggest stages. But to beat Shaun White, who's eyeing gold in Sochi but may end up skipping Aspen, he'll need a clean rail section before his jump line, which could include two or three triples.

Jamie Anderson, United States
Cred check: Has medaled in every X Games Slopestyle event she has entered since 2006.
Biggest threat in Aspen: Enni Rukajarvi (FIN)
Biggest threat in Sochi: Silje Norendal (NOR)

Perhaps the biggest favorite in any of the debut Olympic disciplines, Anderson spins all four directions, holds her grabs longer than anyone and rarely misses a trick. The 23-year-old, who made her first X Games appearance at 13, heads to Aspen with back-to-back golds.

Ski Slopestyle

Kaya Turski, Canada
Cred check: She's won seven of the past eight X Games Slopestyle gold medals.
Biggest threat in Aspen: Dara Howell (CAN)
Biggest threat in Sochi: Devin Logan (USA)

When Turski tore her ACL in August, she seemingly ceded the top spot to phenom Tiril Sjastad Christiansen, who took gold from Turski in 2013 in Aspen. Sjastad Christiansen then tore her ACL in December. Will Turski's knee hold up? We're betting so.

Ski SuperPipe

David Wise, United States
Cred check: The Reno resident is a two-time X Games gold medalist (Aspen 2012 and '13).
Biggest threat in Aspen: Torin Yater-Wallace (USA)
Biggest threat in Sochi Justin Dorey (CAN)

With a deep field, Wise remains the target because he combines high difficulty with huge amplitude (think 20 feet above the pipe deck) and a style that honors the sport's pioneers. Look for his trademark back-to-back double-cork 1260s -- in opposite spinning directions.

Maddie Bowman, United States
Cred check: Breakout 2013 included two U.S. Grand Prix wins and an Aspen gold.
Biggest threat in Aspen: Devin Logan (USA)
Biggest threat in Sochi Roz Groenewoud (CAN)

Since the 2012 death of Sarah Burke, who led the sport to the Olympics, women's halfpipe skiing has lacked a dominant figure. Bowman, 19, has the toughness and the moves (900s in both natural and unnatural spinning directions) to fill that role.

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