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Winter Olympics | Bad Luck Blights the Brits in Men’s Slopestyle

High winds and questionably low scores meant there were no British men in the slopestyle final

There was never expectation – slopestyle snowboarding is far too fickle a game for that – but there was hope. From the riders themselves, who’ve worked so hard to get here, from the coaches and support staff, who’ve all put in long hours and late nights, and from the fans and families here on the ground in Pyeongchang. But unfortunately it wasn’t to be, as all three British men failed to go through to Olympic slopestyle final yesterday.

The run of bad luck that saw Katie Ormerod crash twice in training, fracturing her wrist and then shattering her heel has not, it seems, been expunged. At least none of the three British men riding, Jamie Nicholls, Billy Morgan or Rowan Coultas, went down the hill in ambulances.

“All I was thinking was ‘headwind’ so as I came out of the rodeo I just pinned it, and I was still slow as fuck.”

“I’m in one piece which is great,” said Billy only half jokingly, after the qualifiers were finished. While he was obviously disappointed, he wasn’t going to let it ruin the experience of being at the games. “I’ve just come to enjoy it really, and I am.”

Billy had dropped in heat two of the qualifiers, when the wind had picked up a bit over the pristine-looking Pyeongchang slopestyle course. It would prove his undoing. Things were looking good on his second run, but as he dropped from the rail section towards the kickers you could feel a gust blowing over the crowd in the grandstand.

As usual, Jamie Nicholls rail tricks were on point – among the cleanest and the most technical. Photo: Sam Mellish

Up on the hill, Billy felt it too. “On the gap-to-down [rail] I had headwind there and I was like, ‘this better stop.’ All I was thinking was ‘headwind’ so as I came out of the rodeo [his next trick] I just pinned it, and I was still slow as fuck.” As he realised he would come up short, he opened out early on his frontside triple cork, miraculously managing to rescue a slightly sketchy double instead, but from then on he knew “the run was fucked.”

“When that happened all I was thinking, was I had to battle the wind coming into the front double again. I didn’t know how big I was gonna go so it completely put me off.”

“Ah well,” he said. “You win some, you lose some.”

Rowan Coultas was similarly sanguine about having been eliminated at the qualifying stage, although he admitted that he was “absolutely gutted” about the fact that he hadn’t managed to land either of his runs.

Rowan Coultas looking steezy over one of the off-axis kickers. Note the windsock blowing pretty hard on the right. Photo: Sam Mellish

Still, he was was happy to be at the games, and soaking up the experience. Mpora met his dad Nick early on in the day. His nerves were understandably in shreds, but his stoke level remained consistently high. “I just dug the original email that I sent to [British head snowboard coach] Hamish [McKnight] eight years ago saying: ‘I want to move to the mountains, where should I go?’ He said ‘Mayrhofen.’ And here we are eight years later and Ro’s in the Olympics!”

At just 20 years old, there’s every chance that Rowan will be coming back for future games if he wants to be.

Chris Corning, the American rider who many thought was scored very harshly.

The only Brit who did manage to stick a run cleanly, Jamie Nicholls, was also left disappointed. Despite having some of the cleanest and most technical rails, his first run score of 71.56 wasn’t enough to put him through to the final. “I thought you were robbed,” I told him, and I wasn’t the only one. “Jamie was underscored,” agreed Hamish, “although I don’t envy them cos it’s a thankless task.” Jamie himself said: “Yeah, that was a bit of a joke.”

For the most part the coaches and riders have seen the judging in Pyeongchang as fairly decent although the complicated course has made things slightly more difficult. However earlier in the Jamie’s heat Chris Corning, the young American who like Jamie and Billy was seen as an outside contender for a medal, had also been given what seemed like a very low score of 70.85. He took it rather less well than Nicholls, throwing what was described as “a hissy fit” in the post-event meeting.

Jamie however took the low score in his stride and tried to step it up in his second run. Unfortunately, like Billy was done over by the wind. “I knew I was going too big, I was going too quick. But it’s hard to judge when you’ve got the wind at your back you know?” he said.

“Chris Corning took the judging rather less well than Nicholls, throwing what was described as “a hissy fit” in the post-event meeting.”

Wind was again an issue in today’s final, where the eventual gold medal winner Red Gerard struggled for speed on his first two runs. “The wind on this course affects it a lot,” he said. So much so that the women’s slopestyle qualifiers, due to be held this afternoon, were postponed and then eventually cancelled as the breeze gathered pace.

Women’s slopestyle will now be contested as a single, final event, with all the riders getting two runs instead of the three they otherwise would have done. One of those dropping in is Team GB’s Aimee Fuller, who’ll be hoping she can finally undo the hoodoo that has affected Britain’s snowboarders in these games.

And of course, Billy, Jamie and Rowan will be back in action in the Big Air contest in just under two weeks time. Before practise begins for that, they have a week off. “It’s all good,” said Billy, “I’m just going to enjoy being here I think.”

You may also like:

Red Gerard Wins Gold | Olympic Slopestyle Full Report

From Underdogs to Overachievers | The Secret Story Behind Britain’s Winter Olympians

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