Men's Snowboard Slopestyle Eliminations
"No pressure, gold medalist from Aspen!" Mathieu Crepel called out to reigning Winter X slope champion Eero Ettala as the Finn prepared for his first run of slopestyle eliminations at Winter X Games Europe.
"Yeah!" chimed in Winter X Big Air champ Halldor Helgason.
Crepel looked over at Helgason. "Hey, you too!"
Everyone laughed, but Ettala might have felt the pressure. He is, after all, plastered all over shuttle buses plying the various villages of Tignes as part of an Oakley campaign. He's wearing the same kit this week as he is in the photos, and claims people on the buses are looking at him funny. Ettala proceeded to struggle through the first few features before belly-flopping the landing halfway down the course.
Helgason didn't fare much better, opting for backflips with obscene gestures and a few shifties for his first run. Both were victims of super-slow snow conditions that plagued the men's and women's eliminations Wednesday. But while Ettala, Helgason and several others (including Crepel) were noticeably slower in conditions made trickier by alternating snow and sun, others appeared better prepared and more enthusiastic.
Chas Guldemond, who went into his second run leading with a 94.33, put down a run that -- given the slow conditions -- will likely get him on the podium in Thursday's final: half Cab 5-0, backside 180, Cab 9, backside 7, backside rodeo, switch backside 9, frontside 7, 5-0 on the rail, backside 900. It earned him a 98.33, and while no one doubted that Guldemond was the form rider of the day, the near-perfect score without even one 1080 had some scratching their heads.
Still, there was a clear difference between those who qualified and those who didn't -- and it wasn't just a Winter X gold medal back home on the mantle. "Some people just want it more and try their hardest," said Breckenridge's Eric Willet, who qualified in third. "Others won't go for it."
And others remember to wax their boards before they shave their half-mustaches in.
Men's Ski SuperPipe Final
As France's Kevin Rolland prepared for his first run of Wednesday night's final, the crowd at the base of the pipe sounded like they were watching a World Cup soccer match. The rolling cheers that simmered and burst through the thousands of fans were likely heard 60 kilometers away, in Rolland's home resort of La Plagne. Then again, most of La Plagne may have been in the crowd.
He didn't disappoint. His first hit, a double, soared more than 20 feet out and was followed by a huge flatspin 3, a switch 7, a massive flare, all punctuated by a 1260. It was one double short of his historic, winning run in Aspen six weeks ago, but it was light years ahead of anything seen in this event so far.
"I don't know if anyone can beat that," said Sarah Burke, who watched from the finish area. "I haven't seen a run that sick. It was better than his X Games run -- it was huge!"
Burke was prophetic. Based on the tricks thrown in the first run, only Tignes local Xavier Bertoni and Justin Dorey -- who were the only two skiers to qualify ahead of Rolland -- had a prayer at even reaching the same zip code of Rolland's 95.00.
Dorey's best shot came in his first run, where his back-to-back doubles -- with slightly sketchy landings on both -- earned him an 86.66. Skiing in the final position as the No. 1 qualifier, Dorey was forced to watch Rolland's next two runs -- the second of which boosted his score to a 95.66 based on an even bigger 1260 -- and the growing lunacy of the crowd below. Dorey crashed on both his next runs.
"They're crazy for Xav and Kevin," said Canada's Mike Riddle. "I've never seen a crowd like that -- maybe for Dumont in the States, but I don't know. Can we have an X Games in Canada?"
Bertoni took his best shot on his final run, immediately following Rolland's new high score. He put together a double, 9, 9, flat 3, switch 7, to 1080 for a 92.00. And when Dorey crashed on his very first hit of his third run, the coronation of Rolland began.
Le Buzz has seen plenty of finish area celebrations at X Games, but nothing quite like this. Hundreds of people barged security and swarmed both the Frenchmen, hoisting Bertoni on their shoulders and smothering Rolland with cameras and microphones.
"I'm so happy to be here with all these cheering people," Rolland said. "I couldn't dream it better, to have my best friend in second place."
He passed the microphone to Bertoni, who continued, "After being kind of alone in Aspen, we're so happy to have put on such a good show by French riders for everyone in France. There's going to be a big party tonight!"
This is all based on Le Buzz's rough translation, but needless to say, Bertoni's use of the future tense wasn't necessary. The party had already begun.