- Alyssa Roenigk, ESPN The Magazine senior writer
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LEVI LAVALLEE 2008 champ, five-time medalist VS. JOE PARSONS 2009 champ, four-time medalist
LAVALLEE ON PARSONS: "Joe's racing background gives him a better grasp of the machine and what it can do. His backflip tricks are clean, and he throws the Frisby air at the end of his run, which is a real crowd pleaser. People see him land on the seat backward, and they're like, 'Holy cow!' It separates him from the rest of the field. His kryptonite is his lack of bar tricks going over the front of the machine. And he uses his seat grabs a little too much. His variety could be better."
PARSONS ON LAVALLEE: "Levi has picked up good sled control from racing. In racing you hit snow jumps that aren't as perfect as the metal ramps in freestyle, so when he takes his skills to the freestyle ramps it's easier for him. The only way to beat him is to adjust your program once you've seen what he's throwing. He has the double backflip, but that's also his weakness. If he's thinking about throwing the trick again this year, it might be consuming all of his attention."
WOMEN'S SKI SUPERPIPE AND SKI SLOPESTYLE
SARAH BURKE 2007, 2008, 2009 champ, five-time medalist VS. GRETE ELIASSEN 2005, 2006 champ, four-time medalist
BURKE ON ELIASSEN: "Grete is always down to try something new, and she's never scared. If there's a trick she wants to learn, she just goes for it. She has an alley-oop 5, which is not a trick I do well, and she gets better height out of the pipe than most girls. She always has a good time, and that's what makes her so good. She doesn't look at skiing as a job. Her only weakness is that she'd rather be skiing powder than hiking up a halfpipe."
ELIASSEN ON BURKE: "When I was 15, Sarah was my ski coach; she filmed my first 540 off a jump. Sometimes I'll enter a contest just for fun, but Sarah is determined to be No. 1 all the time. That is her biggest strength. She was a figure skater and a gymnast, so she has great air awareness. She can do more tricks than any female skier-when the weather is pristine. That's her weakness: If it's snowing, she slows down. I feed off of bad weather."
GRETCHEN BLEILER 2005, 2008 champ, four-time medalist VS. TORAH BRIGHT 2007, 2009 champ, four-time medalist
BLEILER ON BRIGHT: "When Torah was younger, she would throw her harder tricks in a contest, even if she wasn't landing them. Now she has them down, and she's riding with more amplitude. Torah is also one of the most technical riders. Her only downside is a lack of frontside spins, but she covers up with a lot of other great tricks. She mixes up her grabs and throws her signature switch backside 720. Her McTwist impresses me."
BRIGHT ON BLEILER: "Gretchen's consistency makes her a threat to every competitor. It doesn't matter if you have the tricks. What matters is whether you put them down in the finals. Apart from consistency, she's also smooth and has lots of style. She is known for her crippler, which is always big. When she throws it on her first hit, it sets her up nicely for the rest of her run. Weaknesses? I can't think of one."
WINTER X RIVALRIES DO MORE THAN PROVIDE GREAT DRAMA FOR TV. THEY MAKE GREAT ATHLETES GREATER. SIX OF THE BEST GIVE THE LOWDOWN ON THEIR FIERCEST COMPETITOR-AND VICE VERSA.