Snowboard Cross has been described as a "roller derby on snow" and the only thing certain about the Sochi Games’ riskiest discipline is the sheer unpredictability of it.
Also known as Boardercross, Boarder X or BX, the snowboarding competition sees a group of competitors (often four or six) start atop a winding, inclined course with the aim of finishing fastest.
The sport’s origins come from the motorsports equivalent, motocross – which itself is a physically-demanding, high tempo racing competition on natural terrains.
Timed seeding runs are followed by untimed elimination heats, which see the fastest half of each heat progress to the next round, all the way until the final.
The first ever Snowboard Cross event was held in 1991 at British Columbia’s Blackcomb Mountain. It was the brainchild of Steve Rechtschaffner, who along with American ski and snowboarding filmmaker Greg Stump staged the inaugural race as part of Stump’s “World of Extremes” TV show for FOX.
After spending the next few years helping to build courses and raise awareness of the newfound sport across the US, Rechtschaffner created the multi-million selling hit video game series SSX for Electronic Arts. Meanwhile Erik Kalacis staged the sport’s first professional series – The Kokanee Cross – in Canada.
After being a part of the Winter X Games for 15 years between 1997 and 2012, mass public backlash followed the decision to remove it from the 2013 edition which led to it being reinstated for 2014.
In 2006, meanwhile, it made its first appearance at the Winter Olympics in Turin. Snowboard Cross was the term selected by the winter sports governing body FIS, for global translation purposes. Nonetheless, most competitors still favour the term Boardercross.
In the event's third Olympics in Sochi, the weekend saw crashes aplenty.
Norwegian Helene Olafsen was the first rider out in qualifying and after one jump ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
American Jacqueline Hernandez, who went out sixth, hit the slope with a thud as she tried to land backwards and appearing to lose consciousness as she smashed her head into the snow.
When the racers went head-to-head it was just as incident packed. France's Charlotte Bankes looked set to win her quarter-final but crashed badly and appeared to lose consciousness.
In the semi-final, Susanne Moll landed on the knuckle off the first jump. Her face was covered in abrasions as she opted to by-pass the small final.
Italy's Michela Moioli later ruptured a cruciate ligament in her knee after a fall in the final and will return home to undergo surgery.
While other sports such as tennis and football justify their lop-sided payouts in favour of male competitors by underlining just how much more they undertake compared to their female counterparts, it's difficult on this evidence to ever see the ladies of Boardercross taking a back seat to anyone.
Detailed injury tracking during the last Winter Olympics recorded that 11 per cent of athletes got hurt – and the most dangerous sport was Snowboard Cross.
Regardless of the risk involved, few winter sports have managed to capture the attention of the casual audience quite as well as Snowboard Cross.
Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic was the eventual winner of the dramatic and chaos-filled women's event at Sochi. [FULL REPORT]
Samkova's podium posing and 'lucky moustache' [READ MORE] combine with her gold-medal talent to create the perfect poster girl for such an adrenaline- and character-fuelled sport.
Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic horses around on the podium after claiming women's Snowboard Cross gold (Reu …
As with other winter disciplines, the nature of Boardercross has also been adapted for ski – Ski Cross (Skiercross, Skier-X) followed Snowboard Cross into the Winter Olympics when it debuted at Vancouver 2010.
Despite being slightly behind Snowboard Cross on the timeline of cultural and Olympic growth, the concept of the ski variant actually predates the board equivalent – Jim “Too Tall” Essick of Recreational Sports Marketing devised Skiercross as a means of making ski racing more exciting for the spectator back in the late 1980s.
The men's Snowboard Cross event was postponed on Monday due to heavy fog making visibility almost impossible, and it will now take place early on Tuesday morning. Read more on that here.
- Sports & Recreation
- Snowboard Cross