While it's rare to see snow blades in this part of the world these days the ultra-compact skis are bigger than ever in Europe and Asia — prompting the International Olympic Committee to call an emergency meeting in Karthoum last week to vote on whether to include two new snow blade competitions in Sochi in 2014.
After three days of meetings, IOC members voted unanimously to add two medal sports to the lineup; snowblade big air — which will take place on a 30-metre gap jump — and a TV-friendly event called "The Gauntlet."
The snow bladers will each get three jumps in the big air competition. The first jump has to be inverted, the second has to include a spin move with at least 540 degrees of rotation and the third can be a combination of grabs, spins, flips and hand gestures.
The Gauntlet, which was banned in several countries until organizers agreed to remove live animals from the event, is best described as an obstacle course with jumps, berms, open pits, spinning blades and flaming hoops. Dogs will no longer chase the snow bladers down the hill under the new FIS regulations, but to keep the sense of danger and urgency the course will now be lined by international judges wielding paintball guns and water cannons.
Germany is favoured to win, but Russia is coming on strong and you can never count out the French in any sport, no matter how fringe.
The Canadian Snow Blading Association welcomed the announcement.
"This is unexpected," said Earl Bailey, who runs the association out of the back of his car in Collingwood, Ontario. "We've got a few young kids that have shown some interest, but nobody is competing at the highest level right now. And we're having trouble finding insurance, to be honest. And a store that carries snow blades."
Own the Podium announced on Sunday, April 1 that they will be pumping $30 million into the sport this year. Bailey will serve as the team's coach until a better one can be found.
"Saucer Boy, may he rest in peace, would have been my first choice," said Bailey. "He would have been so proud to see this all come to pass."
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