How long has snowboarding been an Olympic sport? Fans don't have to look far back into history to discover the answer. Snowboarders first competed in Olympic competition in 1998 at the Nagano Games, although the International Olympic Committee approved the sport for competition in 1994. The first Olympic snowboarding competition involved two styles: the half-pipe and giant slalom.
The half-pipe is an event that emphasizes perfect tricks and big air in a 66-meter half-circular shoot, while the giant slalom was an all-out race, similar to alpine snowboarding or skiing, to see which athlete could get to the bottom with the fastest time. The half-pipe event is still a part of Olympic competition, while the giant slalom event was replaced in 2002 with parallel giant slalom, in which two Olympic snowboarders race head-to-head. The winner of the heat advances to the next round.
In 2006, the International Olympic Committee added snowboard cross to the Olympic snowboarding line-up. Snowboard cross is a combination of half-pipe and parallel giant slalom, with riders racing to the bottom of the hill yet passing jumps, waves, and other obstacles on the way. Initially, snowboarders race individually in an effort to clock the fastest times. In later rounds, the athletes race in groups of four with the top two advancing to the next round.
All three current Olympic snowboarding events—half-pipe, parallel giant slalom and snowboard cross—have both men's and women's competitions.
The first snowboarder to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games was Ross Rebagliati of Canada in the giant slalom in 1998. After competition, Rebagliati was stripped of his medal when he tested positive for marijuana, but after an appeal from the Canadian Olympic Committee, Rebagliati was reinstated by the International Olympic Committee, and remains the first Olympic snowboarding gold medalist.
Other gold medal winners in 1998 include Gian Simmen of Switzerland in half-pipe, Karine Ruby of France in giant slalom and Nicola Thost of Germany in half-pipe. Since snowboarding's inclusion into the Olympic Games, two athletes have been double-gold medal winners: Shaun White of the United States in half-pipe (2006, 2010), and Philip Schoch of Switzerland in the parallel giant slalom (2002, 2006). To win his second gold medal in 2006, Schoch had to square off against his brother, Simon, in the final race.