The proverbial Road To Sochi has the freeskiing community talking quite a bit about everything from whether the Olympics will kill freeskiing as we know it to if there will be enough snow in Putin's homeland to host a proper event.
Something else that has people talking and has people confused is how one makes the Olympic team for any given country. Our sport has always only been one giant pool of competitors. It's never pitted country against country. While this is great for national pride in athletes, it's proving rather difficult to construct an Olympic field that will offer the best of the best to the worldwide audience.
FIS and the IOC have used the ski racing sport as a wireframe for constructing the basis for team selections. Essentially, before any country can begin the nomination process for its respective team, an athlete has to be eligible according to FIS and IOC. This eligibility is the same for all countries and all athletes. In order to be eligible to compete in Sochi, skiers must have either placed in the top 30 in a FIS World Cup event in either halfpipe or slopestyle during the selection period of December 10, 2012 - January 19, 2014; have placed top 30 at FIS Freestyle World Championships during the selection period, or have at least 80 FIS points in halfpipe or 50 FIS points in slopestyle on the Olympic FIS List prior to January 21, 2014.
From there, and where each country differs, is in the nomination process.
The Canadian Freestyle Ski Association will then nominate a maximum of four skiers per gender per discipline to represent their county at the Games based on a quota of 26 athletes amongst Halfpipe, Slopestyle, Aerials, Moguls and Skiercross.
Of the 26 possible spots, nine provisional spots have already been awarded under the Method A early nomination process of the CFSA. To qualify for early selection an athlete must podium in at least two of five designated competitions during the 2012/2013 season, like the Sochi test event and the World Championships. Mike Riddle, Rosalind Groeneoud, Kaya Turski and Dara Howell have already been named under the æMethod A' process. The other five are in aerials, moguls and ski cross. The remaining seventeen spots will be determined based on at least two results from the coming season combined with a maximum of two results from last season. These will be totaled for each athlete in the CFSA's æMethod B' selection protocol.
In order to be eligible for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, French skiers must be in the top 30 on the FIS World Cup Rankings in either Halfpipe or Slopestyle, at which point the French Olympic Committee will choose a maximum of 3 or 4 athletes per gender per discipline to represent France at the Games.
In order to be eligible for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, New Zealand skiers must participate in a minimum of 4 FIS World Cup events and finish in the top half of the field in two of those events. If they achieve this standard, they are eligible for the New Zealand Olympic Committee to consider them for selection to fill the quota spots that New Zealand has achieved.
In order to be eligible for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Norwegian skiers must have documented placing opportunities among the 8-12 best at competitions that represent the highest level of freeskiing, including AFP Platinum-level events and other competitions with the very best of competitors. The Norwegian Olympic Committee will then select the athletes that will make up the Norwegian Olympic Team.
In order to be eligible for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, male Swedish skiers must be in the top 30 on the FIS World Cup Rankings in either Halfpipe or Slopestyle, while female Swedish skiers must be in the top 24, at which point they will be nominated by the Swedish Ski Association for potential inclusion in the Games. From there, the Swedish Olympic Committee will select a maximum of 4 skiers per gender per discipline, and generally at least one top 8 result in a World Cup event over the last two seasons is required for selection. The Swedish Olympic Committee may also select a skier of exceptional talent in order to prepare for the future, and if Sweden as a country has earned x number of spots, and one of the selected athletes is injured and a lower-ranked athlete (outside of the top 30 for men and top 24 for women) produces exceptional results closer to the Games, they are eligible for selection.
The US is a bit different than any other country. At this point, no one is guaranteed to be a part of the team. There are five qualifying events during the same season as the Olympics; The Dew Tour, and four Grand Prix events. An athlete must podium in at least two of these events to qualify for consideration. From that pool, the coaches will determine who makes the cut. If there are not enough who qualify, coaches will determine who should be brought into the fold based on their finishes at the five qualification events.
Additionally, they have to qualify for eligibility which comes before hand and will not be difficult for those we expect to see in Sochi.
Any athlete achieving a Top 30 placement in a FIS World Cup or FIS World Championship event in either Superpipe (Halfpipe) or Slopestyle with a minimum total of 80 points (50 for Slopestyle) on the Olympic FIS Points List will qualify to represent Great Britain. The current ranking and points standing of all freeski athletes is available on the Official FIS website.
In addition, athletes within the Top 100 World ranking AND a minimum of two Top 20 (male), Top 12 (female) finishes in FIS World Cup Events, OR one Top 12 Finish in the 2013 FIS World Championships OR a minimum of two Top 15 (male), Top 12 (female) finishes in the X Games, Aspen Open or Dew Tour, will also be nominated by BSS for selection by the BOA.
Japan does not need a nomination process most likely as the FIS/IOC qualification necessities of placed in the top 30 in a FIS World Cup or a FIS World Championsihp event will do enough to determine the team as is. In the event they need to determine a nomination process closer to the games, the SAJ will determine one at that time.
Again, athletes have to meet the minimum requirement that being a top 30 placement in a FIS Wrold Cup or FIS World Championship event and have a minimum of 80 FIS points for halfpipe and 50 for slopestyle.
From there, the SSA will nominate athletes for the team based on specific finishes with first selection going to those with a podium finish in a FIS World Cup during the Olympic Qualification Period. Next selection will go to all top ten finishers in a FIS World Cup during the Olympic Qualification Period. Then, depending on how many spots are available, they will look at who else may be eligible on the FIS World Ranking list.