KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — In the summer of 2012, Devin Logan was living her life, skiing in New Zealand, hurtling herself through the air in what would seem to be ill-advised ways. She is, though, a freestyle skier, so her world is one in which dangerous is normal. When she tried to pull off a particular trick — a “Cork 7,” getting nearly parallel to the ground while making two full revolutions off a jump — she landed, felt a pop in her right leg, and was done for a year, her knee blown out.
Tuesday afternoon, though, in the debut of slopestyle skiing as an Olympic event, here was Logan coming to the final jump of her routine. And here came that Cork 7, without even a blink.
“I was definitely feeling it,” Logan said.
She is 20 years old, a native of West Dover, Vt., whose free spirit seems to fit neatly into the freestyle community. And when she landed that last trick, on the first of her two runs in the finals, she became something people in her sport couldn’t have considered a year and a day earlier: an Olympic medalist.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Logan said.
It nearly wasn’t. Slopestyle skiing was approved for inclusion in the Sochi Olympics exactly one year before Logan and her competitors — “friends,” she called them time and again — took to the challenging course at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. The delay came as the International Olympic Committee tried to figure out whether Sochi organizers could realistically prepare a course in time.
By Feb. 11, 2013, they had done so, and the IOC voted in the sport for both skiing and snowboarding. Tuesday morning, a group of athletes and daredevils who sometimes revel in living in the margins dipped their toes in the water of the Olympic experience.
“I don’t usually get nervous,” said Keri Herman, a former hockey player from Minnesota. “And I’m pretty sure I was hit with every single possible emotion that you could ever have at the top. What is going on? I don’t know how to handle that. I’m scared, sad, excited — ah, crazy, all at the same time.”
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From Herman’s telling, Logan provided some help calming down. At the top of any course — and slopestyle courses feature a set of rails on which skiers jump, then a series of jumps, off which they contort their bodies like high-divers — Logan can be found dancing, rapping to herself, generally getting fired up. She has particular reason to enjoy her sport given her injury: a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus to go along with two microfractures.
When she couldn’t compete, she served as a judge, learning how to see freestyle skiing from the other side.
“I kind of know what they’re looking for, what they want to see,” Logan said. “So I’m trying to keep my own style in it, but still work around them.”
She has learned how to play to the judges without compromising.
“Devin has style for days,” Herman said.
After the morning qualification round, Logan was fifth, but those scores are scrapped and the dozen women who reached the finals all started even. Still, the best in the morning was Canada’s Dara Howell, and therefore she skied last in the afternoon. When Logan landed her final trick and smiled in the waiting area at the bottom of the hill, Howell was just getting ready at the top.
From there, she unleashed the run of the day.
“At this point in time, I think it’s one of the most exceptional runs that’s ever been done by a girl,” said Peter Judge, who runs Canada’s freestyle ski association. “Not only the execution of each of the tricks, but the overall . . . cleanliness, the flow of the tricks, the DD [degree of difficulty]. At almost every piece of it, she excelled.”
The run yielded a score of 94.20 from the five judges, an easy gold medal. Logan’s 85.40 was just enough to stave off Canada’s Kim Lamarre for silver.
The Canadians are competing here with a tinge of sadness. Sarah Burke, a pioneer in freestyle skiing who pushed for halfpipe and slopestyle to be included in the Olympics, died just more than two years ago in an accident on a halfpipe. She would have been 31 and a favorite for a medal here. Instead, the Canadian team tried to honor her with stickers on their helmets — stickers the IOC banned.
So Howell made her tribute the gold medal.
“She was such an inspiration to me,” Howell said. “I just think she would be so proud — and happy.”
Both Howell and Lamarre had to ski their final runs, however, after teammate Yuki Tsubota crashed violently off the last jump. She was carted off on a stretcher, a stark reminder of the dangers of this sport, but suffered only what was suspected to be a broken jaw, Judge said.
And because she was relatively all right, there was only joy at the bottom of the hill. Danger is normal. Before Tuesday, the Olympics were not.
“I was in the springtime with my friends having fun and just wanted to put down a run, and I did that,” Logan said. “Couldn’t have asked for anything better.”