Maddie Bowman

Maddie Bowman, first Olympic ski halfpipe champion, ends competitive career

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Maddie Bowman knows she has been very fortunate. She just turned 26 years old and has already accomplished everything she wanted in her sport, halfpipe skiing.

Bowman, who won the event’s Olympic debut in Sochi in 2014, recently decided to retire from competition.

“I’ve really given the sport everything I could that was positive, and I knew the sport would be in great hands when I walked away,” she said. “So I decided it was my time to be done.

“I just felt like I couldn’t give anything else to the sport because I was a little bit afraid [of injury], but also it’s mentally exhausting. It drained my mental health for sure, but I loved doing it, and I still love skiing. Competition just isn’t for me anymore.”

The decision weighed on the South Lake Tahoe native last season. She competed at the Winter X Games for the last time, taking fifth place. She earned medals each of the previous seven years, including five golds, despite undergoing two major knee surgeries in that span.

“I was thinking [last year] that this is really hard, and I don’t know if I want to keep doing this,” she said. “It was really hard for me to get into the right mental state again. It’s painful. My knees hurt, but I was torn. I was torn between wanting to walk away and the love I had for the people I was around, people I competed against and just the lifestyle. I worked really hard on opening up other doors for myself besides skiing, which is making my transition a lot smoother.”

Those opportunities include activism, spreading awareness around climate change for Protect Our Winters. Bowman wants to finish her college degree and teach high school biology and health. She aims to continue public speaking regarding motivational talks and mental health.

Bowman struggled with depression between the Sochi and PyeongChang Olympics. She is equally proud of her second Olympic performance — finishing 11th in South Korea — as her landmark gold medal in Russia. While in PyeongChang, she believed it would likely be her last Olympics.

“I had doubts if I would even make it to PyeongChang, and making it there was one of my huge accomplishments,” Bowman said. “It was such a special event. Even though I only got 11th, I skied my freakin’ heart out. I gave it everything I had.”

Bowman, the daughter of two former professional skiers, took gold in Sochi as the youngest finalist. She landed back-to-back 900s for the first time in her career (by accident after having to improvise her opening run). She did so in front of family that included 78-year-old Lorna Perpall, who wore a T-shirt that read “badass grandma.”

Afterward, Bowman spoke about friend Sarah Burke, the Canadian ski halfpipe pioneer who died after a training accident in 2012.

“It means so much for us to be able to show the world what our sport is,” Bowman said that night in Russia. “She’s here with us.

“I sure hope I, and everyone else, made her proud because we would not be here without her.”

Bowman has her own place in history. No matter how long ski halfpipe is in the Olympics, she will always be the first woman to earn gold.

“I know as our sport gets more solidified into the Olympic Games, it can become pretty national, cutthroat and competitive,” she said. “I would love to see it stay this free-spirited work of art, something beautiful like that.”

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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.

Olympic champions sweep X Games ski halfpipe titles

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David Wise and Maddie Bowman are repeating history this season and hoping that continues in PyeongChang.

Wise and Bowman, just like four years ago, won X Games titles after becoming the first halfpipe skiers to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team.

Four years ago, Wise and Bowman went on to win gold medals in the event’s Olympic debut. Can they do it again?

Wise became the first man land four different double corks in four different directions in Aspen, Colo., on Thursday night, according to ESPN.

He scored 94 points in his third and final run (video here) despite not being able to do all four tricks in practice due to a practice fall Wednesday that banged up his knee. Full results are here.

“I just started feeling the energy of the crowd,” said Wise, who won his first X Games title since a three-peat from 2012-14. “That was my goal at the beginning of the season [to land four double corks in four different directions].”

Wise beat a field that included the other three men on the Olympic team — Alex FerreiraTorin Yater-Wallace and Aaron Blunck — as well as Sochi silver and bronze medalists Mike Riddle (Canada) and Kevin Rolland (France).

Bowman landed back-to-back 900s during her 92-point winning run (video here), according to ESPN. Full results are here.

The 24-year-old won four straight X Games titles from 2013-2016 before taking bronze last year.

“This is the best,” of the five titles, said Bowman, who reset after last season by moving from Park City back to South Lake Tahoe, Calif. “It’s been a rough last year.”

Bowman beat all of the other Olympic medal contenders on Thursday, including 2017 X Games champion Marie Martinod of France, world champion Ayana Onozuka of Japan and Canadian Cassie Sharpe, who has three wins this season.

The X Games continue through the weekend, highlighted by the women’s and men’s snowboard halfpipe finals on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

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