ZHANGJIAKOU (China) -- Scotty James, an Australian snowboarder, describes the process of mastering his signature trick in the halfpipe as "trying to write a thesis using your left hand."
Impossible? No. It is extremely difficult. Yes.
This applies to any trick that could earn you a medal in the Olympic halfpipe. The men's and women's finals will be held on Thursday and Friday.
Chloe Kim passed Wednesday's qualifying round, and is now a strong favorite to win her second consecutive gold medal in women's events. Shaun White, a three-time champion, is an underdog in his last contest.
This is largely because James and his Japanese team, which includes Ayumu Hirano (two-time silver medalist), have created a jump that was only a year ago a dream for even the best.
TRIPLE COORK: This is the key to men's halfpipe success this winter. Ironically, White began working on it in 2013, but he abandoned it after deciding that it was too risky and not worth the reward.
The rider gains speed and turns above the pipe in three spins.
American Taylor Gold stated that "with the tricks that precede this one, there is usually a way to get out of it when it goes wrong." "With this one there is no way out."
Hirano has only landed the trick once in competition this season. He then fell on his next jump. The final halfpipe is a three-run competition and only the highest score counts. Competitors will often put down safety runs at the beginning -- which is a run using their 'B+' material that could deliver a potential meet-winning score. Then, they can bring out the big guns at end, if necessary.
White also said that James is working on a triple, but he doesn't think he will. But there are other ways to make a difference.
SWITCH BACKSIDE DOUBLE COORK 1260: It's difficult for average snowboarders to appreciate the difficulty of some tricks. Unlike skiing, it can be hard to see if they are going forwards or backwards.
James' signature trick starts with him riding "switch", or backwards. This means he is leading with his right leg. You can also flip backwards. The riders won't be able to see the landing area for the first part.
James was convinced that the trick wasn't getting enough attention at the Olympics where he won the bronze medal. He stated that he noticed that the "switch" or backward riding is getting more credit this season.
THE 1440: The number that is placed in front of a spin equals the number of degrees of rotation performed by the rider. It's a mixture of sideways twists and head-over-heels flips.
Iouri Podlodtchikov (the "I-Pod") won the 2014 Olympics with the YOLO ("You Only Live Once") trick, which is a first-of its kind and features 1440 degrees of rotation. White and Hirano both won back-to-back 1440s in 2018, one riding forward and the other backward. White landed the second of these 1440s for the first time, while Hirano landed his third gold medal.
CHLOE'S GOAL - Kim is able to fly higher than any other woman in the halfpipe. She finished her win at the Olympics by landing back-to-back 1080 degree spins, a feat no woman has ever achieved in a halfpipe.
Although she has kept her plans very secretive for this year's final, she did give a hint about what might be in store. Spoiler alert! The holy grail in riding is to be capable of performing tricks in all four directions (forward front flip, forward rear flip, backward flip, backward flip (also called a "cab jump") and backward flip (see James).
Kim stated, "That's how I want to push snowboarding. It is by encouraging people to be an all-around snowboarder and be capable of spinning all four directions." That's my goal. It's my goal. I'm working towards it. I'm excited to share it with you guys."
MADDIE'S TASTE: If Kim had an off day, American Maddie Mastro may have won the gold. The trick she's been practicing is a frontside double-cork 1080. It involves two head-over heels flips and one full twist. Mastro was 13th in qualifying, but did not advance to the final.
We might still see it. Kim also has this trick, but no one has ever landed it in competition.
FOR PURISTS - American Taylor Gold is a longshot because he is more interested in the style and not in massive tricks. While it doesn't win medals every time, it wins the hearts of snowboard enthusiasts.
Watch Gold's double Michalchuk 1080 trick. It is named after Canadian snowboarder Michael Michalchuk, but it also goes by the nickname "Chuck Taylor" which pays homage to Converse sneakers.
This is a double backflip from the back wall, with one horizontal spin. Gold grabs the board with both his hands when he is on. Although it won't look as impressive as the tricks on halfpipe, it will be spectacular. Ask any experienced rider: They will tell you that it is a beautiful trick.