PYEONGCHANG, Feb 6 (Reuters) - In her bid to retain the Olympic snowboard slopestyle crown, Jamie Anderson is “tapping into the power” of her younger American team-mates.
Coming into Pyeongchang, Team USA boasts one of the youngest teams, with three teenagers and two 20-year-olds part of the snowboard slopestyle team.
Anderson, 27, praised her junior compatriots Hailey Langland, 17, and 20-year-old Julia Marino for pushing her in the build-up to Pyeongchang and making her believe more challenging tricks are possible.
“For a long time women’s snowboarding was a little bit stagnant. I wasn’t progressing much and was doing a lot of the same runs,” explained Anderson at a news conference in Pyeongchang on Tuesday.
“At first I was freaking out when I first met Julia and Hailey, I was like ‘oh snap, I am going to have to retire sooner than I thought’.
“I genuinely didn’t think girls were capable of certain tricks and so when I saw a lot of girls doing more doubles and tens, instead of letting it discourage me, I let it light my heart on fire and follow their lead.”
Anderson heads a team hopeful of completing an American clean sweep on the podium of both the slopestyle and big air snowboarding, which makes its debut in Pyeongchang.
Despite the competition on the slopes, all the snowboarders were moved to commend the team spirit within the US camp.
For youngsters such as Marino and Langland - both competing at their first games - living with the calming presence of an Olympic champion has made settling into the Olympic village a breeze.
“Jamie has been a kind of life coach this week,” admitted Langland, who arrived in Pyeongchang with the rest of the team on Feb. 2.
“I met her when I was about 14 years old at my first US Open and ever since then she has taken me under her wing and given me the best advice. Even though this sport is so individual, we definitely all have each other’s backs.”
Having grown up together on the professional circuit, Marino and Langland’s friendship is key to their success. Both credit one another with allowing them to maintain perspective in a hectic lifestyle.
“Having Jamie and Jess and Hailey and all the girls we live with it is so nice. It keeps everything at a normal level. It is just a bunch of friends hanging out,” said Marino.
The snowboarders will hit the slopes in Pyeongchang for training for the first time on Thursday, before the competition begins in earnest with slopestyle qualifying on Feb. 10. (Reporting by Jack Tarrant; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)