Snowboarding slopestyle makes its debut at the Sochi Winter Olympics – and Britain’s Billy Morgan, now through to the semi-finals, is a hot contender.
Billy Morgan first discovered snowboarding on a dryslope in his hometown of Southampton when he was 14, writes Becky Horsbrugh. And although he did not get on the snow until he was 17, he has dedicated himself to the sport.
He joined the British team two years ago when he was 21, and has now become one of the big names on the snowboarding scene.
Billy Morgan comes from a gymnastic background, which is not surprising considering the acrobatics involved in snowboarding slopestyle. In December 2011 he became the first snowboarder ever to land a trip backside rodeo, which is essentially three flips in mid-air.
Slopestyle is one of five snowboarding disciplines being showcased at the Sochi Winter Olympics, alongside the halfpipe, parallel giant slalom, snowboard cross and parallel slalom – all of which are competed by men and women in separate events.
In slopestyle, which is making its Olympic debut at Sochi, athletes perform on a slope featuring various obstacles such as pipes and jumps. The competition runs on an elimination system with semifinals and finals, with two runs in each round. The snowboarder with the best results wins.
In 2011, Morgan won the British Championship Big Air – the national championships for his sport. Only a year later, at 24 years old, he considered quitting snowboarding as he was not making enough money to survive.
But his friends and coach talked him round, and with the help of lottery funding he continued with the sport. He went on to finish fourth at the 2013 World Championships in January, and won bronze at the World Cup meeting in Sierra Nevada, ending last season second in the world rankings.
Morgan suffered a setback in September when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament and medial cruciate ligament in his right knee during a relatively straightforward training routine in Yorkshire.
But in his first competition since the injury – the US Grand Prix in Colorado last month – Morgan qualified for the finals in first place.
He admits that his nerves can often get the better of him, but a good performance in Sochi could see the Morgan winning the first-ever Slopestyle snowboarding gold medal at the Winter Olympics – and the first medal for Britain in the sport.
Men's snowboarding slopestyle at Sochi
6 February - qualification
8 February - semifinals
8 February - final
Becky Horsbrugh is a producer for Channel 4 News