Pemberton’s Yuki Tsubota earned a surprise silver in women’s slopestyle at the season’s lone winter Dew Tour stop, helping the Canadian freestyle ski team to five medals during the iON Mountain Championships at Breckenridge, Colo.
Kaya Turski took the victory in Sunday’s (Dec. 16) final and Tsubota made it a one-two finish for Canada in windy and cold conditions, adding to the national halfpipe team’s three-medal total from Friday (Dec. 14).
Tsubota travelled to Breckenridge as the fourth alternate. She left with one of the podium finishes needed for early Olympic qualification.
“It’s kind of starting to sink in, but I can’t believe it happened. I was not expecting this at all,” the 19-year-old said Tuesday (Dec. 18). Tsubota qualified in fifth place on Saturday (Dec. 15) for the six-skier final.
“Just getting into the comp was a big thing. Finals were my main goal, and my coaches told me to just go have fun because I’d already achieved that.”
After things wrapped up Sunday, Tsubota realized that a trip to Sochi next winter isn’t far from reach.
“I guess this means there’s a chance for me to make the Olympics. It feels so much closer now,” she said. “Before this comp I was kind of stressing but it’s really realistic for me now. I’m happy and I’m so grateful for all my support from home, I couldn’t be here without them.”
The result will likely reserve a place for Tsubota in Aspen for the 2013 Winter X Games, and it’s a good bet that she won’t be a fourth alternate for the four other Olympic-qualifying events to come this season.
Turski scored an 87.25 to run away with the final, while Tsubota’s 72.25 held up for second in the blustery conditions. Australia’s Anna Segal (56.75) finished third; Canadian Dara Howell placed fifth.
Tsubota opted to downgrade to a 360 on her last jump due to the weather and said that decision paid off.
“If I’d done the 540 I probably would have exploded,” she said.
Tsubota and Turski can both earn an early berth for the 2014 Games in Sochi with two more high finishes in top-tier events later this season, one of which must be another podium result. The same goes for halfpipe skiers Justin Dorey, Mike Riddle and Rosalind Groenewoud after their podium finishes on Friday.
Whistler-based Dorey won the men’s competition and Riddle finished third, sharing the podium with New Zealand’s Byron Wells. Squamish resident Groenewoud took bronze in the women’s final on Friday.
Dorey landed double corked 1260s in both directions on his winning run, earning a top score of 93.50. Riddle, who qualified in first position, scored an 88.50 with a clean opening run that included a double 12 and back-to-back 900s. Matt Margetts, the other Canadian in the final, finished ninth.
“This is the most important event for us so far as what the results mean,” said Riddle, the reigning FIS world champ. “It’s huge to get a podium so I’m unbelievably excited. Now I hope to build on it.”
Dorey, who threw the right-side 12 to close his opening run despite not working on it much going in, said Olympic qualification stuck in the back of his mind as well.
“I usually go for broke on every run. Sometimes it works but it’s a gamble,” said Dorey. “I knew I needed a podium for the Olympic qualifying so I was a little more reserved. That helped me focus.”
Americans Brita Sigourney (90.25) and Maddie Bowman (87.25) finished one-two in the women’s final ahead of Groenewoud (84.00).
“It’s nice to start with a podium,” said Groenewoud. “It’s our first qualifying event for the Olympics so it’s a great way to start the whole qualifying season.”
Keltie Hansen was the other Canadian in the women’s final and she placed sixth (62.00).
In snowboarding events from Breckenridge, Saskatchewan’s Mark McMorris won the men’s big air and slopestyle events, while North Vancouver’s Spencer O’Brien took silver in women’s slopestyle.