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Olympic preview: Men's freeski halfpipe

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Aaron Blunck Aaron Blunck

Four years ago, U.S. freeskiers swept the podium in men's slopestyle. Could there be a sweep in the halfpipe this time around?


Each nation that earns quota spots can only send a maximum of four halfpipe skiers to PyeongChang. The Olympic selection process for the U.S. halfpipe team was a brutal one, with several world-class talents such as Gus Kenworthy missing the team. (Kenworthy did make the slopestyle team though.)


Over the course of the Olympic selection events, the deep U.S. team was paired down to its final four, and all four of those skiers have the talent to win gold.


As for the possibility of a medal sweep, that's in play too. Three U.S. skiers made up the podium at last month's X Games, which is as close to an Olympic preview as it gets. And in the qualifying round in PyeongChang, it was three Americans at the top of the leaderboard.


Here's a look at the stars of the halfpipe — from the U.S. and rest of the world — who will be hunting for medals during Thursday's final (Wednesday night in the U.S.).



Team USA


A look at the four U.S. skiers looking to make history.


David Wise: The defending Olympic champion. Wise won the inaugural ski halfpipe Olympic competition in 2014, and though his results were down in recent years, he's reestablished himself as the favorite for gold in PyeongChang. A big reason for that is his performance last month at X Games, where he became the first halfpipe skier to land four double corks in four different directions (left, right, switch left and switch right) in a competition run. Wise is likely to attempt a similar run in the Olympic halfpipe final, and if he lands it, he could be very tough to beat.



Alex Ferreira: The only first-time Olympian on the team. A life-long friend of teammate Torin Yater-Wallace, Ferreira gets huge amplitude in his runs and can unleash multiple doubles. He's also on fire right now. So far this season, Ferreira has finished second or better in five of the six contests he's entered.


Torin Yater-Wallace: In 2014, Yater-Wallace made his Olympic debut but was plagued by injuries and was unable to land a run in the qualifying round. About two years ago, had a scary, life-threatening experience after a trip to the hospital led the doctors to discover that a bacterial strain had caused an abscess within his liver and was attacking his gall bladder. Doctors had to place him in a medically induced state of paralysis for 10 days. His recovery began right away, and a few months later, he won a gold medal at an X Games contest in Norway. Entering PyeongChang, Yater-Wallace is healthy and a medal contender once again. He won bronze last month at X Games Aspen.



Aaron Blunck: A technically proficient skier with one of the more unique runs in the field. He's one year removed from winning the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) halfpipe title and an X Games gold medal. Blunck finished seventh at the last Olympics but is the top qualifier headed into the final in PyeongChang and will have the benefit of being the last skier to drop.



The Rest of the World


A look at some of the international skiers who could end up on the podium.


Canada: Mike Riddle won a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics, but the biggest challenger in PyeongChang could be Noah Bowman, who attempts a lot of switch tricks and has very unique halfpipe runs.


France: Because of his ability to generate extremely high amplitude, Kevin Rolland has earned the nickname "The Flying Frenchman." His career accolades include three X Games titles and the 2014 Olympic bronze medal.


New Zealand: Two pairs of brothers make up the full team: Beau-James and Byron Wells, and Miguel and Nico Porteous. All except for Miguel Porteous successfully advanced to the final. At age 16, Nico Porteous is the youngest skier in the field and a rising talent. The Wells brothers were the only non-Americans inside the top five during the qualifying round.



How to Watch


NBCOlympics.com will be streaming every round of every competition live online. Links to each stream are below.


Men's Final: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 9:30 p.m. ET
LIVE STREAM






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