Skiers from the national women’s freestyle teams helped lead Canada’s podium push at the Winter X Games, falling short of gold, but bringing home four medals in all.
Rosalind Groenewoud and Megan Gunning started it off with silver and bronze on Friday night (Jan. 25) as Canadian skiers took three of the top four spots in the women’s superpipe final at Aspen.
And in a dramatic slopestyle final that wrapped up ski competition on Sunday (Jan. 27), Kaya Turski had her quest for a four-peat denied, but shared the podium with teammate Dara Howell.
Groenewoud took the silver with a score of 86.66 and Gunning earned bronze with an 85.0. Alberta’s Keltie Hansen (84.33) was just off the podium.
U.S. skier Maddie Bowman scored a 91.33 on the best of her three runs to take gold.
Groenewoud, who was the event’s defending champion, counted her second-run score for the podium finish. She had a great final run going that would have rivalled Bowman’s top score, but the Squamish resident fell on her last hit.
“I’ve never fallen on that trick, my switch 540, before in competition,” said Groenewoud. “It would have been my best run ever. It’s really frustrating.
“I think I maybe lost a bit of focus because I knew it would have been close to first. I don’t know if it would have gone my way or Maddie’s way, but it definitely would have been tight.”
Still, the 23-year-old said she was happy to see improvements in her skiing this week, noting that she landed the best 900 of her career on the third run.
Gunning, a silver medallist at the X Games three years ago, said Friday’s bronze was actually more satisfying because she’s struggled to find the podium over the past couple of winters.
“I knew I had it in me, and I mean it’s been a long time so this means a lot more to me than the second in 2010,” said Gunning.
The 20-year-old became the first woman to land a switch 900 in a contest on Friday, while earning one of the required podium finishes for early Olympic selection. Groenewoud now has podium finishes in each of the first two targeted events for a Sochi berth.
No Canadian men were able to advance from Thursday’s (Jan. 24) superpipe eliminations. Calgary’s Noah Bowman finished ninth for the team’s top finish, but only eight moved on to Saturday’s (Jan. 26) finals, won by David Wise in a repeat victory and an American podium sweep with Torin Yater-Wallace and Simon Dumont. Matt Margetts was 11th and Mike Riddle placed 14th.
Norway’s Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen, 17, upset Turski for gold Sunday, becoming the youngest female to win X Games gold on skis.
Pemberton’s Yuki Tsubota finished sixth in her X Games debut, but was in the mix early as the first-run leader. She scored an 87.66 on her first attempt, working in two 720s and a backflip. Despite upgrading her last jump to a 900 on the second run, Tsubota wasn’t able to improve the score.
“I was so stoked after my first run. I was just happy that I put down a run,” said Tsubota, who had trouble with speed on the course in morning training, but enjoyed her first X Games experience overall. “It was incredible … the atmosphere is just so different than every other competition.”
The last skier to drop, Turski needed to beat Christiansen’s 92.33 to win her fourth-straight gold, but had to wait out a 35-minute course hold after Ashley Battersby fell and injured her leg. After the long delay, Turski skied a solid run but fell short with a 90.0. Howell (89.33) brought home bronze.
“It was for sure a little bit of a mind game and the course changes a little over that time, too,” said Turski, adding that she was “relieved” to win silver since she sat in last place before the third run.
Another youngster, 18-year-old Nick Goepper of the U.S., won the men’s final earlier Sunday. Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut earned silver and U.K. skier James Woods, a Momentum Ski Camps instructor in Whistler, took bronze.
Fourth-place finisher Alex Bellemare was the top Canadian. X Games were not an Olympic qualifying event for slopestyle skiers.
Meanwhile, Saskatchewan’s Mark McMorris won a pair of X Games medals, taking gold in snowboard slopestyle and silver in big air. Maxence Parrot earned slopestyle silver for a one-two Canadian finish.
B.C. rider Spencer O’Brien took bronze in women’s snowboard slopestyle one week after winning the world championship. Quebec’s Louis-Felix Paradis won the snowboard street event.