Maddie Bowman

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Alex Ferreira wins first ski halfpipe event of season

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Six months after winning the final World Cup competition of the 2016/17 season, Alex Ferreira is picking up right where he left off.

Ferreira won this season’s first major freeski halfpipe contest, which was held at Cardrona on Friday as part of Winter Games New Zealand and also doubled as a World Cup event. His winning run, which included forward double cork 1260s in both directions, showcased the signature amplitude that has helped turn him into a legitimate contender.

A native of Colorado, Ferreira is one of many skiers who will be vying to make the U.S. Olympic team later this winter. (Qualifying, which got underway last winter, resumes in December.) The U.S. roster for freeski halfpipe is extremely deep, with reigning Olympic gold medalist David Wise, 2017 X Games champion Aaron Blunck, Torin Yater-Wallace, Gus Kenworthy, Taylor Seaton, Lyman Currier and Birk Irving among the other top hopefuls. Only a maximum of four skiers will make the team, either through direct qualification or a discretionary selection.

Of the U.S. skiers listed above, only Ferreira, Blunck and Irving competed in New Zealand. However, many of the top international skiers were in the field, including Canada’s Mike Riddle (the 2014 Olympic silver medalist) and France’s Kevin Rolland (the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist). Rolland ended up finishing second behind Ferreira at Winter Games NZ, and Simon d’Artois of Canada took third. Though Rolland had back-to-back double cork 1260s at the end of his run, he was only able to get in four tricks overall, while others, including Ferreira, were able to squeeze a fifth hit into their runs.

Four Americans in total reached the men’s final. Blunck finished fourth, Hunter Hess placed seventh, and Irving was eighth.

The women’s halfpipe contest was won by Canadian freeskier Cassie Sharpe. Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru landed in second, and France’s Marie Martinod rounded out the podium.

It’s a notable result for Sildaru, as the 15-year-old rising star has been dominating the slopestyle scene in recent years and was already pegged as the Olympic favorite in that event. Although she became the junior world champion in halfpipe back in March, she was relatively untested against top halfpipe skiers until now.

The top American was Annalisa Drew, who finished fourth. Carly Margulies (5th), Maddie Bowman (6th) and Brita Sigourney (10th) also cracked the top ten. Bowman is the reigning Olympic champion on the women’s side.

Men’s Freeski Halfpipe
1. Alex Ferreira (USA), 93.40
2. Kevin Rolland (FRA), 90.20
3. Simon d’Artois (CAN), 88.60
4. Aaron Blunck (USA), 87.20
5. Miguel Porteous (NZL), 86.80

Women’s Freeski Halfpipe
1. Cassie Sharpe (CAN), 91.00
2. Kelly Sildaru (EST), 90.20
3. Marie Martinod (FRA), 84.40
4. Annalisa Drew (USA), 82.80
5. Carly Margulies (USA), 81.00

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Torin Yater-Wallace, Maddie Bowman lead U.S. skiers onto halfpipe podium at Olympic qualifier

Torin Yater-Wallace
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Heavy snow on Friday and high winds on Saturday led to the cancellation of the final round of the skiing halfpipe and snowboarding slopestyle events at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix. The competition, held in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., served as the first Olympic qualifier for the U.S. athletes hoping to make the team for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

With the final round unable to be contested, the results from qualification stood and four skiers moved halfway to earning an Olympic berth. In the men’s freeskiing halfpipe competition, Torin Yater-Wallace earned the top score of 92.33, followed by Gus Kenworthy with 92.oo. and Taylor Seaton with 90.00. Yater-Wallace and Kenworthy were 2014 Olympians, with Kenworthy earning a silver medal in the ski slopestyle event.

It was Yater-Wallace’s first World Cup win since 2014. He’s had his share of injuries in the years since Sochi, with a concussion in 2015 followed by an infection that affected his gall bladder, liver and lungs and put him on life support in 2016. At the Mammoth competition, he told U.S. Freeskiing, “(I’m) actually dealing with a really bruised heel right now, but I am working through it.”

In the women’s event, the reigning Olympic champion in ski halfpipe, Maddie Bowman, finished second. In first place was France’s Marie Martinod and third was Japan’s Ayana Onozuka.

Yater-Wallace, Kenworthy, Seaton and Bowman now just need one more podium finish at an Olympic selection event to automatically become PyeongChang Olympians. A maximum of three athletes per gender will be named to the U.S. team if they finish on the podium at two designated selection events. The second of the five planned qualifiers will be held next December.

“The fact that it’s an Olympic qualifier definitely adds a lot of pressure,” Kenworthy said, “but I tried not to think too much about the stakes at hand and just focused on landing my run.”

MORE: Torin Yater-Wallace healthy going into X Games after years of health scares

 

 

Aaron Blunck wins surprise gold in crash-filled ski halfpipe

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Television commentators described the Aspen X Games ski halfpipe as “the most infamous pipe in the sport.” And for good reason.

In Friday night’s first run, Canada’s Noah Bowman was the only skier out of 11 to land cleanly. In the second run, just American Aaron Blunck and Miguel Porteous of New Zealand stayed upright.

Blunck’s second-run score was good enough to earn him the gold medal, followed by Porteous and Bowman.

“It’s just hard conditions out here for everyone,” Blunck, who finished seventh at the Sochi Games as a 17-year-old, said to reporters afterwards. “It was really icy and it was really fast, so with that everybody was going so big, which makes them get a little bit closer to the deck.”

The 2014 Winter Olympic medalists struggled in the Aspen ski halfpipe. 2014 Olympic champion David Wise finished last, while 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Kevin Rolland of France was eighth. 2014 Olympic slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy was 10th, one spot ahead of Wise.

Earlier on Friday, the 2014 Olympic medalists claimed the top three spots in women’s ski halfpipe. 2014 Olympic runner-up Marie Martinod of France won X Games gold. At 32, she was the oldest skier in the competition. After her first run, she removed her gloves to show the message “#WOMEN” written in permanent marker on her hands.

Ayana Onozuka, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist from Japan, finished second, followed by 2014 Olympic champion Maddie Bowman of the United States. Three U.S. skiers—Devin Logan, Brita Sigourney and Annalisa Drew—claimed the three spots after Bowman.

Max Parrot successfully defended his X Games gold medal in men’s snowboard big air. Marcus Kleveland of Norway finished second, followed by Canada’s Mark McMorris.

It was the 12th medal of McMorris’ decorated X Games career. McMorris has missed the podium just once in his 13 X Games starts—when he finished fourth in big air in 2011.

MORE: Shaun White has worst X Games finish since 2000