I have a confession to make. I come from a snowboarding background and
have never been a huge fan of freestyle skiing. However, after this week
I am converted and just might be their biggest fan.
The final event of a huge week of freestyle skiing at Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley was the men and women's halfpipe finals taking place in the world-renowned Eagle Superpipe. Blustery winds and snow made for less than ideal conditions, but world-class athletes can overcome and perform in any conditions. Many of the athletes commented that the weather was a challenge, however the larger goal of helping their sport progress to the Olympic level was reason enough to press on and step up to the challenge.
Canada has been representing well in the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in every discipline and halfpipe was no exception. The Canadians took double gold today raising their gold medal tally to 7 out of 10 events. Canada's Mike Riddle and Rosalind Groenewoud stood atop the podium this afternoon and listened to their country's national anthem with sheer joy displayed across their faces. Canada's freestyle team trains and travels together. The support from their coaches and fellow teammates has definitely attributed to their success at the World Championships.
The level of riding in the men's field was absolutely insane. One by one they dropped and proceeded to go bigger and spin more than the last. Mike Riddle's winning run consisted of a double cork 1260, back to back 900s, a flat 360 into back to back switch 900s. The silver was won by France's Kevin Rolland with a double flip 9 and double cork 1260. Simon Dumont, in third place headed into his second run, dropped a double cork 1260 with record-breaking amplitude off his first hit. Unfortunately, the wind gusts kicked in on his follow up 900 and he settled for bronze.
On the women's side, Canada's Ros Groenewoud's amplitude set her apart from the rest of the field. Ros claimed a gold medal today with a solid 900 and lots of 5s. Jen Hudak dropped into her second run hungry after having to throw away her first run. She couldn't pull out the 1080 she was hoping to wow the crowd with but went crazy big on her 900 and earned a well-deserved silver medal. Rounding out the women's podium was Keltie Hansen taking home another medal for Canada.
The feeling of excitement and anticipation of potentially competing in the 2014 Winter Games was ever-present in the athletes today.
"The biggest thing about today was obviously the Olympic push," said Dumont. "If this were any other event, I probably would have pulled out. But our big goal is to end up in the Olympics. Hopefully we proved that we are here, we’re serious and we are going to ski in a hurricane and put on a good show."
If the IOC is looking for a sport with amplitude, tricks and style, I think this field of competitors showed them where to find it.
Listen to the athletes talk about the days events and what they might mean for the sport in the video below.
Originally from the Pocono’s of Pennsylvania, Travis found his way to Park City three years ago and is now our grooming manager. When not in snowcat you can find him skiing or snowmobiling in the Utah backcountry or enjoying the skiing here at Park City Mountain Resort.
Nicole Roundy is a world class snowboarder on the US Paralympic Team. She is a cancer survivor, inspiration seeker, crossfit training, Park City riding superpower blogger. Follow her adventures right here. You can also spy her on twitter (@nicoleroundy) and Instragram (@nroundy)