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Wise a favorite in Olympic debut of ski halfpipe

February 17, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Shhh! Don’t say anything because American halfpipe skier David Wise is trying to keep this hush-hush until race day: He’s got a new trick to unveil in the final.

It’s a good one, too, he pledges. Nail it cleanly and a medal could be hung around his neck in the event that’s making its Olympic debut on Tuesday.

“If I land it, yeah, pretty good shot,” he said.

Care to give a hint as to what’s in store?

“No,” the freestyle skier from Reno, Nev., said. “You’ll have to watch.”

Wise will only try the new maneuver, though, if the weather is decent — unlike Monday when there was heavy fog hanging over the halfpipe in a training session.

Even without a new trick up his sleeve, Wise will be among the favorites. There’s actually quite a deep field, with Wise’s teammates Torin Yater-Wallace, Lyman Currier and Aaron Blunck also medal contenders. Same with Kevin Rolland of France and Mike Riddle of Canada.

Here are five things to know before the game’s newest event begins:

FEELING GROOVY: Yater-Wallace is steadily getting back to health after breaking his ribs in December. He also spent nearly a week in the hospital earlier that month with a collapsed lung.

Asked how he’s feeling, the 18-year-old responded: “All good. I’m awesome.”

Well, that’s not entirely true. He said the halfpipe was making him a “little sore” because of the way it is set up.

“A lot of flat landings early for everybody, but now it’s getting better,” he said.

PATCH OF HONOR: On the left sleeve of his jacket, Riddle wears a patch featuring a moose with ski goggles. He said that’s one of six he and his Canadian teammates could’ve chosen.

“So we can make (the jackets) a little bit unique,” Riddle explained.

Riddle enters the final on quite a roll, finishing in the top-10 in 12 straight competitions.

“Most of the pressure I’m facing is from myself,” Riddle said. “I want to put down the best run I can do.”

THE WAITING GAME: Since Rolland’s arrival a week ago, all he’s done is hang out at his hotel and attend practice.

“A lot of waiting — waiting in the room, waiting for skiing. It’s long,” he said.

So, who does he see as the favorite?

“Everybody can do good stuff here. For sure, David Wise, Torin, Justin Dorey (Canada), Mike Riddle,” Rolland said. “All those guys can do pretty good. And some others.”

FOUL WEATHER: If it’s foggy, snowy or even rainy, Wise vowed to be ready. He’s not worried about the elements — not at this stage of the game.

“Even today, I was still putting my runs together — in the fog, in these conditions,” he said. “We’re pros. This is what we do. You can overcome adversity and still do your thing. It’s going to be all right.”

WATCH PARTY: Wise said some of his family members are planning to gather in a Reno sports bar to watch his event.

He’s hoping to make it a festive occasion. That’s why he’s eliminated all the distractions, focusing only on the halfpipe.

“I’ve spent less time watching things and going to things,” he said. “More time on my own, visualizing my runs.”

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