Six Olympic ski halfpipe medalists, including every gold medalist, competed in the Copper Mountain Grand Prix finals on Friday. None won.
Instead, an American who placed seventh in PyeongChang and a 16-year-old Estonian forced to sit out the Olympics prevailed as the freeskiing season began in earnest in Colorado.
Aaron Blunck rebounded from missing the Olympic podium with a 96.25-point run for his first top-level victory since his 2017 World title. Blunck’s tricks included a double cork 1440, according to NBC Sports’ Luke Van Valin. Two-time Olympic champion David Wise placed third with 90.5, while PyeongChang silver medalist Alex Ferreira was eighth.
“I’ve been working on that run now for pretty much all summer,” Blunck said on NBCSN. “After last year in Korea, I was like, that’s the run I want to do.
“Last year was so stressful. I felt like I didn’t really have fun at all.”
Kelly Sildaru, the PyeongChang Olympic ski slopestyle favorite until suffering a season-ending knee injury in September 2017, captured the women’s title with multiple 900s in each of her first two runs, according to Van Valin, and a top score of 93 points.
In her five International Ski Federation events since coming back, Sildaru earned world junior titles in halfpipe and slopestyle, plus a silver in big air in the summer in New Zealand. She then beat all of the PyeongChang slopestyle medalists at a World Cup last month before topping both Olympic halfpipe champions on Friday (American Maddie Bowman and Canadian Cassie Sharpe).
Sildaru, who was born during the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, won the 2016 and 2017 Winter X Games ski slopestyle titles. Her first, at age 13, made her the youngest Winter X Games champion in any event.
All of Estonia’s seven Winter Olympic medals came in cross-country skiing.
The Copper Mountain Grand Prix concludes with snowboard halfpipe finals, featuring Chloe Kim, on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.
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