SOCHI, Russia — Ideally, the time and place to test an Olympics format change would have been a couple of years ago at a smaller competition.
Not at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in the 2014 Winter Games.
But, much to the bemusement of the freestyle moguls skiers, Olympic officials tend to do things their own way. So, with the women’s event starting Thursday, it is a brave new moguls world.
The format tweak increases the importance of endurance: There are now two days of competition — a qualification run and a second day with as many as three more rounds.
Four years ago in Vancouver, the format for skiers featured only two runs.
“It’s good for us,” said American Hannah Kearney, the defending Olympic champion. “I can say quite confidently that we’re the most fit, strongest team out there.... We’re as prepared as possible to handle several days of competition in a row.
“Also, being veterans is helpful because you learn to just go with the flow.… It’s peculiar that the very first time we try a format is on such a grand stage. But I don’t think it will have a negative effect.”
Said U.S. men’s freestyle mogul veteran, Patrick Deneen: “Going into those later rounds is a grind. To lay down that many runs at your peak is tough.
“That was the big controversy, going from just a one-run final and now we have three runs in the final. Just laying down the best run you can time after time after time, that’s a lot tougher than laying down your best run just once. “
Kearney, who is heavily favored to repeat as champion, was asked about the physical demands. The three-time Olympian pointed out that that dual moguls — which is not an Olympic sport — is much tougher.
And she had the line of the hour at a media session: “This will be a breeze compared to that,” Kearney said. “Secondly, have you seen my thighs? I am built for moguls skiing. That’s not going to be a problem.”