Kelly Sildaru

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Kelly Sildaru completes medal trifecta at X Games

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A teenager from a country with no mountains claimed three medals in two days at the X Games in Aspen.

That’s 16-year-old Kelly Sildaru, the Estonian sensation who three years ago became the youngest winner of a winter event with her inaugural slopestyle title at age 13.

Sildaru finished second in halfpipe last night, took this morning’s slopestyle title with a score of 99 out of 100 before placing third in big air on Friday night. She is the second woman – and the first in 22 years – to win three medals at one X Games (Swedish snowboarder Jennie Waara did so in 1997). Sildaru has now made the X Games podium seven times.

Her trio of medals comes less than a year-and-a-half after she tore her left ACL, causing her to miss the Olympics, where she was pegged as a medal favorite in both slopestyle and halfpipe.

Sildaru hails from Tallinn, Estonia, a country whose tallest peak is just over 1000 feet. She followed her father, Tonis, into skiing, and travels as a trio with Tonis and her younger brother, Henry, who is also an avid freeskier. They document their travels and skiing ventures though vlogs on their YouTube channel.

Sildaru’s hectic X Games program meant a relatively rigid schedule in Aspen. Even the seemingly unstoppable Sildaru admitted she was a little weary, telling the Aspen Times, “I always really wanted to do all three disciplines, and I knew it was going to be hard but I didn’t think it was going to be this hard.”

 

 

Alex Ferreira, David Wise go 1-2 on first night of X Games

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It’s safe to say Alex Ferreira has been imagining this moment for a while.

As a child, the Aspen native used to skip school with friends to watch his favorite skiers during their practice sessions. On Thursday night, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist in ski halfpipe won his first X Games title in front of a home crowd at Buttermilk Mountain.

Ferreira looked strong from the start, posting a 90.33 on his first run. But his third run – with a dizzying sequence of double corks – was even better. Two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist David Wise finished second, and New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the PyeongChang bronze medalist, placed third.

The depth of U.S. halfpipe talent could merit a sweep on any given day. But 2017 X Games winner Aaron Blunck was unable to execute, and Gus Kenworthy, the 2014 Olympic slopestyle silver medalist, crashed in all three runs.

In women’s ski halfpipe, reigning Olympic gold medalist Cassie Sharpe of Canada proved she’s still the one to beat: known for her fearlessness and daring approach to the pipe, Sharpe won with a difficult run and incredible amplitude, ending with a 1080.

Sharpe topped Estonian phenom Kelly Sildaru, who was the youngest winter athlete to win an X Games title three years ago in slopestyle. Sildaru is competing in a trio of events this week, going for her third slopestyle title and as well as competing in big air.

Canada’s Rachael Karker finished third in her X Games debut. The Americans missed the podium entirely, despite having a formidable field of competitors. Brita Sigourney, the PyeongChang bronze medalist, finished fourth, while 2014 Olympic gold medalist and five-time X Games winner Maddie Bowman placed fifth.

Chloe Kim, David Wise among X Games headliners

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The X Games return to Aspen, Colorado, this week at Buttermilk Mountain. A marquee event on the yearly snowboarding and freeskiing calendar, the X Games will feature a handful of Olympic gold medalists and notable names in action sports. Below are a few storylines to watch for this week:

Nearly full field of Olympic gold medalists will compete in Aspen

All four freestyle skiing gold medalists in X Games events (halfpipe, slopestyle) and five of six Olympic snowboarding champions (slopestyle, halfpipe, big air) are expected to compete in Aspen. Among them is Chloe Kim, who has not lost a contest since the Olympics. She finished last season with a win at the US Open, and has three victories already this season, including at the Dew Tour in December. Since the Olympics, Kim’s star has only grown: she’s thrown out the first pitch at a Dodgers game and become an awards show regular, but her ability to crush her competition on the pipe remains unchanged.

In addition to Kim, the three other U.S. gold medalists from 2018 should all contend: in men’s ski halfpipe, two-time defending Olympic gold medalist David Wise has continued to impress this season, but as in previous years, he’ll be challenged by his teammates, Aaron Blunck and Aspen native Alex Ferreira, who would skip school as a kid to watch the X Games in person. Snowboard slopestyle gold medalists Red Gerard and Jamie Anderson are both podium threats as well.

After missing Olympics, can Sildaru sweep in Aspen?

Three years ago, a quiet and unassuming Kelly Sildaru won her first X Games title at 13, becoming the youngest ever winner in a winter event. Pegged early as a star for the PyeongChang Games in both slopestyle and halfpipe, the Estonian teenager missed the Olympics with a torn left ACL. Sildaru, who hails from a country with no mountains, will attempt a rare triple in Aspen: she’ll compete in slopestyle, halfpipe, and big air. No winter sports athlete has ever won three gold medals at the same X Games contest. Sildaru missed last year’s event due to her knee injury and has looked sharp so far this season: she won the U.S. Grand Prix in halfpipe and the Dew Tour in slopestyle. Sildaru has four X Games medals in total: two in slopestyle and two in big air.

White’s protégé awaits his big moment

Toby Miller learned from the best: the 18-year-old was mentored by three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, who brought Miller to PyeongChang as his guest. White hasn’t competed since the Olympics, focusing instead on skateboarding, while Miller is having a notable season of his own: he finished third at the Dew Tour and second at the U.S. Grand Prix. The U.S. halfpipe contingent remains deep: Olympians Jake Pates, Ben Ferguson and Chase Josey are all contenders on any given day, though PyeongChang bronze medalist Scotty James will likely be the favorite.

Big tricks

The X Games are often a staging point for new tricks: in 2017, Norway’s Marcus Kleveland became the first to land a quad in competition, only to be topped by Canadian Max Parrot, who won the event with a quad of his own. Chloe Kim and PyeongChang big air gold medalist Anna Gasser have been at the forefront of innovative tricks this season. Kim, a four-time X Games winner, is still far ahead of the field with back-to-back 1080s, which she used last weekend at a World Cup event in Laax. In October 2018, she became the first woman to land a frontside double cork 1080, though she has yet to execute it in competition. Kim can win easily with the arsenal of tricks she already has – but she’d make a bit of history if she decides to go for it.

In November, Gasser became the first woman to land a cab triple underflip, though like Kim, she has not done so in competition. Known for her progressive approach to the sport and impressive arsenal of difficult tricks, Gasser could attempt the triple at the X Games.