McMorris, Gold nominated for NEXT
Every year since 1998, ESPN The Magazine has recognized an elite group of emerging athletes to watch in the year ahead -- athletes they call NEXT. This year snowboarding's own Mark McMorris and Arielle Gold are up for consideration in the action sports category. The Magazine will make its picks in the next month. You can weigh in on yours in the fan poll right here.
In only his third competitive season, Mark McMorris is already considered the rider to beat in big air and slopestyle, where he's as talented on rails as he is in the air. In 2011, McMorris took silver in slopestyle at his first Winter X Games and then returned a year later with gold-medal performances in slopestyle and big air. In the latter, he became the first snowboarder to land a triple cork in a contest , a trick he had pioneered a year earlier. McMorris is currently one of three riders in the world who can land triples consistently and on command. He could also be the first to land one in a slopestyle run. Because of that, he is one of the top contenders for Olympic gold when snowboard slopestyle makes its debut at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, setting up an exciting season of competition between the Canadian kid and a certain redheaded superstar. -- Alyssa Roenigk
In most towns, aspiring to compete in the Olympics makes you a dreamer with a one-in-a-million shot. In Steamboat Springs, Colo., those odds drop to about 1 in 152. In fact, the 12,000-person community has produced 79 Olympians -- 17 in 2010 alone. Its next representative? Arielle Gold. "Arielle is among the very best in the world for her age group," U.S. snowboarding coach Spencer Tamblyn says. "She is leading the way for a growing group of young girls that will put lots of pressure on the veterans and well-seasoned pros."