Vans Team Riders Eric Willett and Iouri Podladtchikov have arrived in Aspen, Colorado for Winter X Games 2013 ready to ride. Practice has already started as the riders feel out the terrain and prepare for the biggest contest of the year. We'll be here rolling with the crew and giving you the inside look into all the action and behind the scenes. First off is a brand new "What's The Word" with the contest killa Eric Willett, who breaks down this year's confusing Olympic qualifications, competing at the X Games and filming with GoPro.
[b]Hey Eric, how has your season been going so far?[/b]
My season has been pretty good, been pretty busy with Dew Tour and Grand Prix and then went to the World Championships in Quebec.
[b]Break down the Olympic qualifications process for us.
So this year we get our (personal) spot to qualify for the Olympics next year, and then were also trying to get the spots for the U.S. Team for the Olympics. The most they can have is four, so were trying to get four riders in the top 30 by the end of the year, and we go the events like the Grand Prixs are the World Cups, and the one in Quebec was the World Championships. Then we have a World Cup in Sochi where the Olympics are going to be, so that will be a good one to go to because we’ll kind of get to see what Sochi is like, since we’ve never competed there before.
[b]So to actually determine who is competing in the Olympics, that will be next season?
Yeah that will be December and January of next season; it’ll be pretty hectic.
[b]How do those events compare to something like the X Games?
I still think right now that X Games is the biggest event of the season, but the Olympics is a totally different thing. It’s a different mindset, because you’re not only doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for your country. So you’re working together as a team to get these spots for next year. I go into it with the same mindset, because that’s worked long enough to where I can just do my own thing, but then at the same time you’re kind of traveling with your team and figuring all that stuff out together.
[b]Especially because you’re on the U.S. Snowboarding Team.
Yeah being on the U.S. Snowboarding team is pretty rad because it’s just a bunch of friends and we have a coach. It’s pretty laid back but it’s a good team.
[b]But any U.S. rider could end up on the Olympic snowboard team that is not on the US Snowboarding Team…
Exactly. I think was eight or nine that made top 30 at Copper (US Grand Prix), so all those guys have a chance. There will be a lot of U.S. riders competing against each other for next year’s spots?
[b]Who are the guys you’re looking out for?
Well the U.S. guys that are on the team are me, Sage Kotsenburg and Chas Guldemond, and we haven’t see him yet, but Shaun White will probably be in the running. We have another kid Ryan Stassel was the fourth rider we brought to Quebec, and he did really well, made it to finals and got a top ten finish there. We got kids like Jeremy Thompson, Nick Julius, Ian Thorly… Those guys will be competing in it for sure. But it’s cool because we just want to get a ton of U.S. Riders in the top 30, so it’s cool to have all those guys trying to do it together.
[b]Then the U.S. will definitely have four spots...
Yeah, then next season we’ll all be fighting against each other.
[b]Does thinking about all this help or hurt when it comes to the X Games?
I don’t know, I think it could help or hurt. I mean, we just got back from Quebec for the World Championships, and it was good event, but I didn’t do that well there. So it was almost like I wish I would have been somewhere else training instead of going to that event necessarily, but that’s just kind of how the season goes. But I don’t think it really does either, I just keep my same mindset and go into X Games like any other year.
[b]You are competing in Slopestyle and Big Air here?
[b]Got any new tricks up your sleeve?
AKA triple cork? I don’t have any triple corks, but I’ve been riding pretty solid and I’ve got all my tricks dialed for this year. We just had our first day of practice on the slopestyle course yesterday and I’m feeling pretty good. So, I just hope to make the finals and hopefully a podium spot. I know there will be triples thrown down, I just hope I can contend with that. I’ve always thought about it and I’ve really been trying to amp myself up, maybe this would be a good in Big Air if the time is right to try one? But, we’ll see…
[b]But you’ve managed to podium before without having one.
Yeah it really comes down to the course, how people are feeling that day, and weather. If it’s snowing you could maybe win with a mellow run or whatever, maybe people aren’t landing everything. Last year at European X it was a perfect day but no one was really landing. So sometimes it just comes down to consistency and landing solid, so that could work.
[b]Are you doing anything with GoPro here?
Yeah GoPro has partnered with X Games this year, and they got Sage Kotsenburg on the team now, so we’re doing the course preview we’re doing a couple runs during practice, so you can look for that… They’ll be airing that right before finals. We shot it a little bit yesterday, we got some pretty sick stuff, and we’ll do a couple more today.
[b]And that will be on the [url=http://xgames.espn.go.com/]X Games website[/url]?
Yeah it’ll be on the X Games website and on TV, and it’ll be on the big screen down at the bottom.
[b]For more on Eric, follow him on Instagram [url=http://instagram.com/eric_willett]@eric_willett[/url].
X Games Schedule:
THURSDAY, JANUARY 24
12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. EST Men's Ski SuperPipe Elimination
3 p.m. - 5 p.m Men's Snowboard SlopeStyle Eliminations Real Snow Video Awards
9 p.m. - 11 p.m. EST Men's Snowboard SuperPipe Elimination Snowmobile Freestyle Final
FRIDAY, JANUARY 25
3 p.m. - 5 p.m. EST Men's Ski Slopestyle Elimination Snowboard Street Final
8:30 p.m. - 10 p.m. EST Women's Ski SuperPipe Final
10:30 p.m. - 12:30a.m. EST America's Navy Snowboard Big Air Final Men's Ski SuperPipe Final
SATURDAY, JANUARY 26
2 p.m. - 4 p.m. EST Men's Snowboard Slopestyle Final
4 p.m. - 6 p.m. EST Women's Snowboard Slopestyle Final Snowmobile Speed & Style Final
9 p.m. - 11 p.m. EST Ski Big Air Final Women's Snowboard SuperPipe Final
SUNDAY, JANUARY 27
2 p.m. - 6 p.m. EST Men's Ski Slopestyle Final Snowmobile SnoCross Adaptive Final Women's Ski Slopestyle Final Snowmobile SnoCross Final
9 p.m. - 11 p.m. EST GoPro Snowmobile Best Trick Final Men's Snowboard SuperPipe Final