Last year, Seb Toutant blew out his ankle at the Air & Style Innsbruck and was out for the season. This year, he came back in full force, winning the Air & Style Beijing just days after his 18th birthday, and has gone on to win every TTR Big Air contest this season, plus the FIS Big Air in Stockholm. So far he's only managed to podium in one slopestyle competition. All that changed here at Winter X.
The French Canadian qualified for Slopestyle with a 97 -- the highest score ever recorded in Winter X slope. Today Toutant became the second rookie to ever win Winter X Slope. (Travis Rice was the first one, and we all know what happened to him after that.) Seb Toots is a machine. He might have the most double cork variations under his belt than any other rider, and he rarely ever falls.
Still, the best thing about slopestyle right now is it's really anyone's game. Toutant may be good, but so is just about every other rider at the top of the competitive field. Take fellow Canadian Mark McMorris, who is here at his first Winter X at the age of 17. He's been competing all season alongside Seb and has a flair to his tricks -- like his 1260 doublecork nose grab, for example -- that makes him a contender in any contest.
"I'm freaking out," said Mark McMorris of his second-place finish. "I'm just trying to wake up. I'm not sure if it's real yet because I never expected a year ago to be in the X Games. I can't even express how stoked I am. And Seb is such a good friend of mine -- I'm so happy to see him win."
"Seb Toots is on another level," said third place finisher Tyler Flanagan, who is also 17. "Honestly, I was about to cry at the end there when Torstein fell. I had the worst practice ever this morning. I'm so stoked I was finally able to just land."
Asked how it is that the level of riding in slopestyle has come so far, so fast, Toutant explained: "We've got a little advantage, because if you look back in the day the jumps were so small, with flat landings. Everything was so bad. For us, when we grew up riding, starting at nine years old there's perfect parks, perfect landings. Everything was built so good, and there were all these riders pushing us to get better."
As to how a Winter X win compares to all of the other wins he's been clocking lately, Toutant replied that, "X Games is so big for me. It was my dream since I was nine years old."
Crowd favorite Torstein Horgmo rode really well, despite the concussion he sustained at the Big Air the other night, and the broken rib he's been competing with all season. Unfortunately the shadowed landings on the downsides of the kickers were the undoing of many riders today, including Horgmo and last year's Big Air winner Halldor Helgason, who were unable to complete a run without falling.