Women's Snowboard Slopestyle Finals
The sun came out, the course was dialed and the women of Snowboard Slopestyle finally had their time to shine Friday morning for finals.
Every girl on the podium today had a 7 in her run -- and not just a 7, but a stylish 7. "The girls have had 7s for a while, but grabbing and stomping is pretty new. For me, a 7 feels really slow now and I want to keep it going ... but with style," said today's silver medalist Kjersti Oestgaard Buaas, who has been competing in Winter X SuperPipe and Slopestyle since 2002 but has never landed in the top three.
Swiss rider and third-place finisher Sina Candrian attempted a 9 on her first run, but didn't quite have the speed to bring it around. "This is my first Winter X Games and ending up on the podium is great. It couldn't be better," she said. Candrian's run included a double grab back 3, front 5, Cab 5, back 3, front 360, 50/50 and front 720. She has landed front 9s previously, at the Chicken Jam and the European Open.
It's been a long week for the all the riders in Tignes, with the marathon-length course going through multiple incarnations and the weather fluctuating daily. "In the beginning, I was terrified. I thought, 'I don't know enough tricks.' Now I like it, because it doesn't feel like a contest, it just flows. It was challenging, but a lot of fun," said Buaas.
"You could concentrate on riding rather than freaking out about speed," said Jenny Jones, who won her third straight Winter X gold medal today. "It's a shame that a lot of the top girls weren't able to ride. It makes for a better competition when you have Jamie [Anderson] and Sarka [Pancochova] and Janna [Meyen-Weatherby]. But there's nothing I can do about that," said Jones.
Anderson hurt herself in practice earlier in the week and Pancochova pulled out of finals, going in for an X-ray on her left foot Friday morning.
Jones' run featured a 5-0, front 3, back 3, front 5, Cab 5, 50/50 and front 7. She added a Cab 7 to the run in practice, but couldn't bring it together in her third run of finals.
If you're wondering where you'll find today's winners tonight, they'll be celebrating:
Candrian: "On the dance floor."
Buaas: "On a table."
Jones: "On the pole."
Women's Ski Slopestyle Final
As Grete Eliassen prepared for her first run of the women's Slopestyle, the rest of the women's field gathered around the monitor in the start area. A graphic flashed on the screen, announcing Eliassen as a five-time Winter X medalist.
"Five-time medalist?!" exclaimed Kaya Turski. "That's going to take me awhile to catch up."
Of course, Turski's already a two-time Winter X slopestyle medalist herself -- with a bronze from 2009 and a gold this season -- and by the end of her first run it was clear she'd add to her collection Friday in Tignes. Spinning 270 on and off the first box, switch 3, right 7, right 5, switch 5, switch off the Shark Tank rail to switch 7 on the Money Booter, she scored an 89 and was already nine points ahead of second place going into Run 2.
Turski would tighten things up and leap further out of reach on the second run, leaving the field grasping for second. Ashley Battersby held that spot after the first run, but it was Breckenridge's Keri Herman -- the oldest competitor in the field at 27 -- who stepped it up the most. While the length of the course was a challenge for most of the women, Herman saw the eight features as an opportunity to throw a trick she's never done before in competition: a 540 blunt grab that had her peers cheering from the top.
"At the beginning of the training session, we didn't think we could do anything," said Herman, beaming in the finish area. "We weren't even spinning anything. To come out and see 9s, 7s, corked rotations and lincoln loops was just so fun to see."
The podium was a near-carbon copy of Aspen, with Battersby sneaking into the third spot instead of Eliassen. As for Turski, it won't be much longer before her competitors are shaking their heads at her medal count.
Men's Ski Slopestyle Finals
With one run to go in the men's Ski Slopestyle, Bobby Brown was nowhere to be found in the start. The rest of the field was gathered around the monitor, cheering and groaning each other on, and no one cheered or groaned louder than Tom Wallisch.
Of course, it was easy for him to be relaxed, sitting as he did in first place with a run -- switch 270 to 450 off the box, switch right 10, switch 5, double cork 10, right 9, switch 9, front 630 off the Shark Tank rail, switch double flat 10 double grab -- that left his competitors shaking their heads. Then again, the self-effacing kid from Pittsburgh doesn't appear to take any of the competitions that he so often dominates all that seriously. "I didn't get into this to be athletic!" he panted earlier after a practice run on the unusually long course. "I got into this because it's supposed to be easy!"
There was nothing easy about Wallisch's run, and as he prepared for his third and final go, there was only one remaining skier who could beat him. Finally, Brown -- the double gold medalist from Winter X (Slope and Big Air) and the day's top qualifier -- appeared. Wallisch offered him some words of encouragement and then pushed off. He nailed a nearly identical run and scored just a fraction lower than his Run 2.
It was go time for Brown. His run -- switch 9, right 7, double cork 12, switch 7, switch right 9, backflip off the Shark Tank -- hinged on the final trick: a jaw-slackening switch double misty 12 that he went long on in Run 1 and short on in Run 2. He needed to set it down just right if he wanted to knock Wallisch off the top of the podium. And as the field watched on the video screen in the finish area, he ticked off each feature on the eight-feature course successfully. He wound into the Money Booter and . stomp. Cue eruption, and no one cheered louder than Wallisch.
But the celebration couldn't begin until the judges made it official. And they took an awful long time to do so. When the numbers came down, it was Wallisch who was crowned champ.
"I tried to do a run [in Aspen] that was a little above my ability at the time," said Wallisch, admitting that he succumbed to rookie jitters at his first Winter X six weeks ago, despite being the favorite. "To come here and do better, I'm stoked. But I think Bobby should have won. His run was so good."
"It came down to execution," explained judge Evan Raps. "The runs were technically pretty much identical, but Bobby took it to his feet on some of his landings. Tom looked like he never took off. His landings were perfect."
The decision didn't come easy, though. "Hands down," said head judge Josh Loubek, "that was the toughest judging job I've ever been a part of."
Women's Ski SuperPipe Final
Jen Hudak came to Tignes six weeks after earning her first Winter X gold medal in Aspen -- a result that she'd been working toward steadily for three years. She was second in 2009, third in 2008, and if there was any question that she's officially taken the mantle of Pipe Queen from three-time Winter X champ Sarah Burke, it was laid to rest tonight.
Her third run -- a run she didn't even need to take, as she led after two and was the final competitor to ski -- was her best: 9, big straight air, 5, alley-oop 5, straight air, alley-oop, 7. Mobbed by the other competitors in the finish area, Hudak shouted "Vive la France!" into the venue microphone, garnering a roar from the assembled thousands.
The rest of the podium -- Roz Groenewoud and Anais Caradeux -- proved with 9s of their own that Hudak will have to work to keep her spot at the top, but she's only getting stronger.
"I think consistency," Hudak said when asked what's led to her dominance this season. "I started landing my 7 better, and I have more mileage with the 9. But I'm only looking ahead. I want to keep learning new tricks and keep getting better. This is not enough."
And that should be enough to have her competitors scrambling for more practice.
Men's Snowboard SuperPipe Final
We're just going to put this out there, doubters be damned. If Shaun White had shown up to Winter X Europe -- and we're betting our wheel of brie that he's gritting his teeth, wishing he had, just to prove to himself and the rest of the world that he could have had it -- he may not have won.
Friday night's Men's Snowboard SuperPipe final could have been the best pipe contest of the year.
Run 1 was anticlimactic, and five of eight riders went down. On Run 2, home-crowd favorite Mathieu Crepel threw a frontside double cork, frontside 12 and an alley-oop rodeo, prompting a "Hot brie coming down the halfpipe!" from the announcers. Score: 95.00, the highest of the night.
Next up, Louie Vito, the Tignes Dancer. In a competitive halfpipe first, Vito put down the triple double -- back-to-back-to-back double corks. Danny Davis landed three doubles to win the Mammoth Grand Prix, but he threw a 9 and a crail air between his first and second two. The fact that Vito's score -- a 92.33 -- didn't beat Crepel's, was upsetting ... for about 45 seconds.
"I've never done those all three in a row. I was going to take it conservative, because at X Games this year I fell on all three runs in finals so I was going to just put a run down instead of going for it. But after I fell the first run, I was over putting down a mellow run and just wanted to go for it. To do it when it counts and not in practice is always nice," said Vito.
In dropped Iouri Podladtchikov with a Cab double cork 10, inverted front 5 and then the trick that he learned a week ago (and landed on his second try) -- the double McTwist 12, aka Shaun's trick, in the middle of his run. On to a front 10 and Cab 7. Score: 98.00 -- the highest in Winter X history.
Or is it?
"I have another double that I've never shown in competition, and of course I'm going to add that to my run! I want to make it interesting, and I've never stopped believing that it's possible to beat Shaun. You shouldn't either."
The U.S. Open should be a treat.