By Erin Lentz | January 17, 2013 | Lifestyle
Torin Yater-Wallace soars above the pipe as he warms up prior to the finals of the men’s ski superpipe during Winter X Games 2012 at Buttermilk Mountain on January 28, 2012. Yater-Wallace went on to finish third. INSET: Torin Yater-Wallace
“Torin has a natural ability to shine—not just in the half-pipe but in any freeskiing. He has balance, agility, and versatility all at the same time, which is rare. It’s cool to see those kids identified at a young age—the ones who have talent and desire—actually make it. During the X Games, when Torin won silver pulling off an alley-oop double flatspin 900, it was exciting to watch him shine in front of his hometown.
And Torin didn’t come out of nowhere—he was getting noticed when he was just 11 years old. He was a standout—a quiet, cool little kid who had natural ability. What makes Torin so strong as a competitor is that he has an incredible amount of technical ability. David Wise may be the only guy matching him right now.
Each summer, when the athletes go to training camps, they start raising the bar with new tricks. The big question for Sochi, is, ‘Will we see a triple?’ I’m not sure if it’s possible, but they’re all going to contribute something, and Torin will definitely be bringing something new to the Games.” —Mike Douglas, godfather of freeskiing and analyst for ESPN’s Winter X Games
Discipline: Skiing, freestyle.
Claim to Fame: Won an X Games medal at 15, the youngest skier ever to do so.
Has never been to… a high school dance. I went to normal school until halfway through sophomore year, then started online courses, because the ski world was way too busy. But senior prom is happening.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without… The Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. I got a scholarship, and there was a never a moment where my parents thought I shouldn’t be doing this because it was too dangerous. They’ve always been fully supportive because they knew I loved it.
On the progression of halfpipe tricks: The sport has been pushed really fast. It’s been pushed too fast in certain ways. Perfect everything first, and then move on. You need that style factor.
Motivation: Music mostly—a lot of rap. It pumps me up. I always ski with music, even during competitions.
People would never guess: I surfed a lot when I was younger because my Grandpa [Renny Yater] owns a surfboard company in Santa Barbara. He still shapes surfboards to this day. He gets up at 6 in the morning and shapes.
About the competition: It’s a good field of guys who are going to impress.
Gretchen Bleiler competes in the women’s half-pipe final during the 2011 Sprint US Snowboarding Grand Prix on March 5, 2011, in Mammoth Lakes, California. INSET: Gretchen Bleiler
“Gretchen is an awesome representative of the sport of snowboarding—a talented and stylish rider who continues to push the boundaries of freestyle snowboarding. Her versatility as an athlete and creativity shows in the pipe and freeriding.
Gretchen has persevered through big crashes and serious injuries to remain one of the best riders in the world for more than a decade. Not afraid to innovate or get inverted, she was the first female rider to land a Crippler 540 in competition. Gretchen was dominant at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, claiming a silver medal and becoming the real Aspen Silver Queen.
It’s not surprising—given her looks and articulate speech—that she’s the poster girl for sponsors K2, Oakley, and Aspen/Snowmass. With all of her fame and exposure, she remains down to earth and continues to give back to her community, championing such causes as fighting global warming and advocating for women’s athletics.
She’s off to a great start this season with a podium finish in the first World Cup of the season in New Zealand. Experience is invaluable at this level. This may be her last Olympic bid. She’s motivated to throw down. She’s got dedication, passion, skills, and still loves to shred. I’m stoked to watch her rule it again this winter.” —Chris Klug, Olympic snowboarder and bronze medalist
Event: Half-pipe, two-time Olympian (2006, 2010), Olympic silver medalist (2006).
First time on a snowboard: Panda Peak at Buttermilk Mountain at age 11.
On Aspen: I’ve been fortunate to travel to some of the most beautiful places. Everywhere I go, I find myself comparing the places to Aspen, and I still haven’t found a place that measures up.
Trick to watch for: Frontside corked 900 tail grab and backside 900 stale fish.
Biggest setback on road to the Olympics: My trampoline accident a year and a half ago. I shattered my eye socket, broke my nose, suffered a concussion, and had severe double vision for months. Getting back from that accident physically, mentally, and emotionally was one of my biggest challenges.
Cause closest to my heart: Growing up in Aspen instilled in me how important it is to be able to live in harmony with our natural environment. I love working with Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and Protect Our Winters.
Plans for this decade: To start a family and continue studying to teach the techniques of meditation, ayurveda, and yoga that have been so instrumental in my life and my snowboarding career.
Jeremy Abbott during the men’s free skating program at the Eric Bompard Trophée ISU Grand Prix in Paris, France, on November 17, 2012. INSET: Jeremy Abbott
“Watching Jeremy Abbott skate, it is obvious that Robin Cousins was the reason he started skating. To have the 1980 Olympic gold medalist as your role model brings a different outlook to what skating could be. Jeremy is unique to every skater in the world—and that’s how it should be.
That’s the way skating had always been until the International Judging System (IJS) made every skater strive to win by performing under the exact same guidelines. These days there is no real incentive to be innovative or bold choreographically. All any skater needs to do is what he is told to do to win. Stay within the rules, and you will be rewarded.
But Jeremy is different. He has an artistic quality that is the envy of 99 percent of the men competing these days. And that not only makes him different; it makes him special. He can take a piece of music and milk every note and nuance out of it with the way he hears the music and moves to it—it’s magic; it’s priceless. He keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Combine that uncommon artistic genius with the universal athletic requirements and you have a package that is extraordinary.
[At Sochi] Jeremy needs to fight off the demons of inconsistency for those split-second, four-revolution spins in the air [quadruple jumps] and land flawlessly on those quarter-inch knives that are strapped to his feet.
Combine Jeremy Abbott artistry with difficult, clean, technically packed programs, and you’ll see a package that will be scaring the wits out of the competition.” —Scott Hamilton, American figure skater and Olympic gold medalist
Discipline: Figure skating, singles; 2010 Olympian.
Coaches: Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen.
A star is born: When I was 5, I saw Robin Cousins perform at the Aspen Ice Garden. That’s what started it all. The reason I skate is because I grew up in a mountain town. From the time I could walk, I was skiing and skating.
Favorite Aspen memory: Christmas with my family—the ground full of snow, sun out, and that magic that the holidays are supposed to have. Since we left Aspen, I’ve always missed that special something that I only ever felt there.
Toughest aspect of my new programs for Sochi: Definitely the quad toe.
Words of wisdom for aspiring skaters: Persevere. I’ve never known a skater who had an easy career. It’s a very difficult sport and takes a lot a patience and perseverance.
Cause closest to my heart: Skate for Hope (a skating show that benefits breast cancer research) and Parkinson’s research.
Proudest moment: Walking in the opening ceremonies in the Vancouver Olympics as a part of the United States team.
People would never guess: I love tattoos. I have six and am trying to work on more.
photography courtesy of NBC Olympics/USOC; getty images (snowboard); NBC OLYMPICS/USOC (portrait); corbis (skating)