Feb. 6, 2014 at 10:35 AM ET
The Winter Olympics represent the culmination of years of training and sacrifice, but many athletes competing in Sochi this year are just as thrilled about showcasing their sports for the first time at a Winter Games.
“It’s cool to make sure the sport is seen the way that we want it to be seen and be the first," Gus Kenworthy, a member of the U.S. freestyle skiing team, said Thursday, live from Sochi on TODAY.
Jessica Jerome felt the same way about her event, the first-ever women's ski jump. She told Matt Lauer about how years of practice have thrown off the perspective she has when she's about to leap downhill.
“To us, it’s just a normal day when we look down that,” she said. “It’s part of our training, but I guess to everybody else it looks kind of crazy.”
The 2014 Winter Games also will be introducing the slopestyle as a snowboarding event. The sport got extra attention Wednesday when American Shaun White announced he was dropping out of the event, expressing concern about the safety of the course. White still plans to go for another gold medal in the halfpipe competition.
White’s snowboarding teammates said competing in multiple disciplines is difficult.
“It’s tough to do two events,” Danny Davis said. “I don’t blame him.”
“We all came here to work hard, to come compete and work hard," Greg Bretz said. "What he does is kind of his decision."
Australian Olympic snowboarder Torah Bright didn't appear to have any problems with the slopestyle course in Sochi. On Thursday, she advanced to the event's finals competition.
“We are the best in the biz, and the level of build just didn’t quite match up,” she said about the course. Changes to the course have been made and now "everybody seems to be putting on a great show.”
Bright's training methods may have something to do with her confidence. She admitted to Lauer that she has an unusual way to prepare for competition. Earlier this week, she took a picture of herself in an ice bath just before the slopestyle qualifier.
“I got three events at these games, so I’ve got to make sure that this body stays in tip top shape, so ice baths are very much a part of that,” she said.