By Gerard Gallagher, Olympics Writer
(SportsNetwork.com) - In the past 16 years, snowboarding has grown from a niche Olympic sport into a Winter Games powerhouse featuring five events for men and women.
Shaun White is the sport's Greatest of All-Time -- the Wayne Gretzky of snowboarding -- and will be chasing a three-peat in the men's halfpipe.
Win two gold medals at one games? White has a shot to do that, too.
The red-haired superstar has also qualified for the slopestyle event making its Olympic debut in Sochi, Russia.
White used his own private halfpipe to perfect a trick he showed off while winning his second straight gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics.
But the Double McTwist 1260 is old news. White debuted a new trick in December in a video posted online by sponsor GoPro, which built him his own halfpipe.
He used the a frontside double-cork 1440 to win the final qualifier on the day the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team was announced.
You can watch him work on the trick here: http://goo.gl/b2XrZZ
"When it's on, it's on. I don't try to force it," said White. "It's a strange thing, but getting down to the wire has helped me improve greatly because I'm feeling the excitement. I'm feeling the pressure and it motivates me to do better tricks and to put down the runs I want to."
He's the only athlete to qualify for halfpipe and slopestyle, the new Olympic event that features riders doing tricks over rails and jumps much like a skateboard park, only down a trail.
"This has been the craziest journey to get here, from doing slope and pipe and just the process I go through every single time," said White. "I've tried to compare it to the other Olympic qualifications and it just doesn't compare at all. It is its own thing and I really love that about this time around.
"It's not the same, and for me that's fun. It stays exciting. If it was just halfpipe I would have maybe procrastinated, but since I had slope and pipe it's really forced me to do both equally as hard and really push the limits of what I thought was possible for my riding."
Parallel slalom was added to the men's and women's competition, too, bringing the number of combined events to 10. Snowboard cross and parallel giant slalom are back.
The U.S. women's halfpipe team includes former Olympic champions Hannah Teter (2006) and Kelly Clark (2002), who finished 2-3 behind Australian Torah Bright in 2010. Joining them are Kaitlyn Farrington and Arielle Gold, the sister of men's halfpipe team member Taylor Gold.
Greg Bretz and Danny Davis will join White and Gold on the men's team. Davis was on his way to earning a spot on the Olympic team four years ago, but injured his back and his pelvis in an all-terrain vehicle accident. Bretz finished 12th in Vancouver.
Jamie Anderson, the two-time reigning X Games champion, leads the women's slopestyle team.
Lindsey Jacobellis will try a third time to win gold in snowboard cross after two disappointing showings. In 2006, she was on her way to winning the final at the Turin Olympics when she grabbed her board on a jump at the bottom of the hill and fell. She settled for silver, then cut a gate at the Vancouver Games and failed to make the final.
Leading the Canadian team in Sochi will be Olympic champions Jasey-Jay Anderson, 38, and Maelle Ricker, 35.
In Vancouver, Anderson won the men's parallel giant slalom and Ricker captured the women's snowboard cross. Dominique Maltais, who won bronze in the 2006 race where Jacobellis crashed, fell in Vancouver and didn't make it out of the qualifier, but is also back for another run.
Snowboarding at the Sochi Olympics begins Feb. 6, a day before the opening ceremony, with slopestyle qualification. It runs through Feb. 22.
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