The women's slopestyle snowboarding final was not what it could have been
After history pretty much repeated itself in the men’s slopestyle finals yesterday – the underdog American rider putting down a creative masterpiece to take the gold from the Norwegian and Canadian favourites – now we can see if it’ll go the same way for the women’s contest. Their Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic journey starts…. now!
Denied a qualifying round by yesterday’s strong headwind, the finals will feature all 27 riders competing with two runs each. Basically, the original qualifying round, but with all to play for.
“Can Anderson defend the gold and the American top-spot domination? Or can the Austrian take it to her in the finals?”
Whilst we’re a long way from seeing the same technical triple dips in this field, the last couple of years have seen double flips and corks entering the women’s competition repertoire, with Anna Gasser and Jamie Anderson leading the charge.
They were also the arguable favourites to take it – could Anderson defend the gold and the American top-spot domination? Or could the Austrian learn from the last games and take it to her in the finals?
Would Hailey Langland take her enviable style and technicality all the way down the course? Or would the riders take note of the extra marks for using the full course from the men’s heats? Read on to find out!
Once again the event site was plagued by the bad wind that had caused trouble in the men’s contest and had caused the abandonment of the qualifiers. The kind of wind that puts the fear of God into riders hitting jumps and Trump’s bouffant.
It was a final where experience definitely paid off, and it was telling that the most veteran rider in the field, Silvia Mittermueller, packed it in and rode down the side of the course with her backpack before her first run.
The same headwinds that had caused the qualifiers to be cancelled plagued every rider here, and there will no doubt be discussions for years as to whether or not the event should have gone ahead.
The Olympics aren’t a snowboard event with big weather windows, and with international TV schedules controlling start times, it’s almost a miracle that the weather hasn’t played a factor like this in any previous games.
For the riders that signed up for this it’s something you’d think they must have known in advance, but nonetheless, it was very, very sad to watch it go down knowing full well that this was far from the potential that women’s slopestyle has. It was remarkable that no one was seriously injured.
“It was very, very sad to watch the contest go down, knowing full well that this was far from the potential that women’s slopestyle has”
Jamie Anderson (USA) – 83.00
Laurie Blouin (CAN) – 76.33
Enni Rukajarvi (FIN) – 75.38
Silje Norendal (NOR) – 73.91
Jessika Jenson (USA) – 72.26
Hailey Langland (USA) – 71.80
Sina Candrian (SUI) – 66.35
Sofya Fedorova (OAR) – 65.73
Yuka Fujimori (JPN) – 63.73
Elena Koenz (SUI) – 59.00
Most riders didn’t put down a whole run, though plenty could have come close to threatening the podium. Isabel Derungs, Yuka Fujimori, Julia Marino and Anna Gasser all could have had their moment in the sun were it not for severe gusting wrecking their jumps.
A favourite coming into the event, Gasser attempted one of two doubles – a cab dub under – on her first run but squirrelled out on the landing. On the second, much windier run she opted for a single underflip but with the wind unexpectedly dropping on the second kicker she went massive on a frontside 720 and was unable to ride out of it. a slight consolation prize – her gapped cab 270-on on the second rail was the highest single scoring trick of the day, and deservedly so.
Kiwi rookie Zoi Sadowski Synnott was another standout that could have challenged the podium, but had to pull out of the first kicker in run two. Nonetheless, she put down one of the most bolts double backflips we’ve seen in women’s snowboarding on the last kicker, just for the crowds. This surely won’t be the last we see of her.
Whilst there were a fair few faces of thunder – Spencer O’Brien looked particularly unhappy about the state of affairs, and we’re sure we’ll hear more from her soon – a handful of riders made the best of it and went it blazing.
Hailey Langland was notable in that many had predicted that her slight frame would make it hard to keep speed, though she proved us wrong and stomped a sick corked front three with a frontside to mute grab into a backside 540 and cab 540.
These were good jumps for the conditions, and if she’d attempted some more tech tricks on the rails she probably would have tickled the podium, instead opting for some flowy-but-basic combos up top.
She was only one of five women to best their scores with clean second runs – Sofya Fedorova was impressive but could only make eighth overall, a straight backflip and some early-offs on the rails costing her, and Elena Koenz sneaked into the top ten, playing it very safe to get a clean score on the board.
“Jamie Anderson looked as relaxed as if she was dropping into a blue piste, putting down the winning run on her first go”
Although this definitely wasn’t the show we or the riders deserved, perhaps the saving grace was that there was no doubt that the best rider won. Jamie Anderson looked as relaxed as if she was dropping into a blue run and put down the winning run on her first go and from top-to-bottom, it was the best of the day.
Going boardslide 270-out, a stalefish frontside transfer off the bigger hip take off (the only woman to do so), frontlip-fakie and switch boardslide 270-out on the top section, she was the only rider to score above a seven for every feature.
She opened the jumps with a cheeky switch backside 180 into her trademark backside 540 before attempting a cab double underflip on jump two. Something was wrong with either the takeoff or the wind, but she miraculously opened it up and turned it into a single flip, landing it confidently enough to boost a massive frontside 720 into the finish area.
It wasn’t much of an improvement on her Sochi run, but given the conditions it was nothing short of miraculous, and absolutely deserved a second gold medal.
After an absolute shitshow of a second round, with a lot of questions already being asked about the wisdom of continuing to contest into 40km/h winds blowing all over the place, 21-year-old Laurie Blouin managed to wrestle together a frontside boardslide, boardslide through the double kink, backside 720, frontside 540 and cab underflip, and with a big black eye from practise showing at the finish couldn’t have looked more Canadian if she’d tried.
The only fresh face on the podium, she looks like she’ll have the beans to keep going for a couple more cycles.
Enni Rukajarvi used every ounce of her experience to make her second run count after skidding out on the final jump in her first, sticking a tight front 360 stalefish after a cab 540 and backside 720.
After getting silver in Sochi, a bronze from this wind-swept slope will make a valiant addition to her trophy cabinet. A snowboarder’s snowboarder to the last, she didn’t celebrate her spot until the very end, instead choosing to console O’Brien, Gasser and Marino as they dejectedly finished their runs.
Dropping last and with victory already in the bag, Jamie Anderson was all smiles as she waited for the wind to die down for her last lap, her coach telling her to “do a run that will make you proud.” She gave it a fair go, but even her superpowers couldn’t contend with the gnarly winds on the first jump. Still another gold, and for from four in Olympic slopestyle from Team USA.
And just like that, the rails and jumps will be gone from the greater public’s thoughts for another four years, leaving nothing but cereal box covers and talk show clips in its wake.
Again, questions will be asked on whether or not it should have been run at all, and with snowboarding’s popularity at the Games becoming apparent maybe next time around we’ll see changes such as a weather window implemented. We’re not holding our breath though…
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