American rider Chas Guldemond and Canadian Spencer O'Brien tamed an icy monster of a slopestyle course to be crowned snowboarding's first World Slopestyle Champions here in Oslo, Norway today. It rarely happens at any contest, but for once everything -- riding, the course and judging -- came together to give the thousands-strong crowd the kind of tense spectacle competitive snowboarding has been crying out for.
For organizer Henning Anderson and the team of workers who have toiled for months to make this event happen, there was vindication and the satisfaction of seeing a long-term vision come to fruition. At times it hasn't been an easy road, but today the winning riders were unanimous in their praise of the event and what it meant for the sport of snowboarding, with Guldemond saying the WSC was "the best event in snowboarding so far. I'm proud to be here."
After yesterday's rain, it was a relief for all to be greeted by bright sunshine this morning -- although that combination made conditions particularly challenging for the girls, who kicked things off on a course that was best described, bluntly, as completely bulletproof.
Finnish rider Enni Rukajarvi was an early standout. She didn't have the same technical rotations as some of the other girls, but had an impressive flow to her run so took an early lead. She was soon bested by Cheryl Maas, whose run (including back 7 tailback 3 tail and a backside 7) had tech tricks but flowed less well and thus seemed to be penalized. She ended run one behind Jamie Anderson, who scored 36/40 on flow (the buttery switch backside 5 probably helped) to give her an early lead with a score of 78.9. O'Brien sketched and ended in fifth.
It was similar story in run two, meaning that for eventual winner O'Brien everything depended on her final run. With Anderson dropping first and unable to improve upon her initial showing, O'Brien took the title by nailing her final run -- frontside boardslide, noseslide, backside 540, switch backside 540, 50-50 and a large frontside 720 off the toes -- to post a score of 84.4.
For the event, this was new territory. iIn every other final so far, the winner's first run had ultimately been enough to take the victory. Not so here. "Basically I had to go for it, and it worked out," O'Brien said later. "I'm stoked to be part of this event."
As with last night's pipe event, the new Snowboarding Livescoring System being pioneered at this event added much to the drama that unfolded in the men's slopestyle event. With some of the sport's true big slopestyle hitters in attendance, including Guldemond, Seppe Smits, Seb Toutant and Mark McMorris, it was a heavy contest.
Smits was an early pacesetter, posting 76.3 for an amazing run that included cab 12, a backside 1080 transfer and a frontside 1080. Guldemond soon stepped up, though -- his first run included a switch backside 900, backside 1080, tailpress to backside 180 and a cab 12, scoring him 79.3 and giving him an early lead.
It wasn't to last however, thanks to Seb Toots' second run which scored the best flow of the first two round and included frontside boardslide 450 out, frontside 1080 double cork and a solid as you'll see it backside 1080 off the bottom jump. That gave him 86.8, and meant the title was in his grasp as he went into the final round -- especially as Guldemond followed by sketching out on his second run. As in the women's event, standouts Smits and Guldemond were going to have to nail their final runs to stand any chance of beating Toutant.
The tension mounted when the first-dropping Toutant fell on his first run. He now had to watch as the other 9 riders tried to beat that score of 86.8. Rider by rider, the list shortened with nobody coming near -- although many felt local Norwegian hero Aleksander Ostreng was judged a little harshly on his final run.
The surprise absence of local Norwegian favorites like Torstein Horgmo and Gjermund Braaten, who didn't qualify for the finals, has been a cause of much debate in the Norwegian press while the WSC has been on, so Ostreng's strong showing gave the crowd something to get behind. His 74.4 was still not enough to push Toutant, however, who looked in a strong position as Smits and Guldemond prepared to drop
Smit's final run looked like it would be enough, until he sketched out on his final hit frontside 10. That meant his first run score would guarantee him third place, and it also meant all eyes were on Guldemond who supplied the big finish that everyone had been hoping for with a final run of 87.9 that posted a highest trickscore of 87.9 and went like this: frontside blunt 270 out, frontside boardslide to 450 out, switch backside 1260, backside 1080, tailpress to backside 180 and a huge Cab 1260.
It was the first time the American had landed a switch backside 1260 and he was understandably stoked he'd been able to pull it off in the final to clinch victory. "I'd been thinking about it all year, and I'm feeling blessed it worked out for me today."