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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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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David Wise, Maddie Bowman make Olympics; Gus Kenworthy on bubble

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David Wise and Maddie Bowman won the first Olympic ski halfpipe golds in Sochi. On Friday, they became the first U.S. halfpipe skiers to qualify for PyeongChang.

Wise won for the second time in the first four Olympic qualifiers, this time as part of an American sweep.

Bowman finished fourth in Snowmass, Colo., but she clinched her Olympic spot from having two podiums in the previous three qualifiers.

Neither Wise nor Bowman has to sweat out the fifth and final qualifier next week.

Sochi slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy can’t say the same. He finished seventh Friday, after placing second, 11th and 17th in the first three halfpipe qualifiers.

Kenworthy fell on his first hit on two of his three runs, with one of his skis falling off on the landing both times.

Kenworthy must finish first or second next week to have a shot at automatic halfpipe qualification.

If he doesn’t, Kenworthy will put himself in the same position as four years ago, hoping a committee uses one available spot to put him on the team.

Kenworthy was left off four years ago in favor of Torin Yater-Wallace but of course still qualified in slopestyle.

Alex Ferreira and Aaron Blunck finished second and third on Friday to reach the automatic Olympic qualification minimum but can’t clinch a berth until next week.

Still, they’re both ahead of Kenworthy. As is Yater-Wallace, who won the first Olympic qualifier last February but didn’t make the final in Snowmass.

A maximum of four U.S. men can make the Olympic ski halfpipe team.

Kenworthy competes in a slopestyle qualifier Sunday in Snowmass. A full broadcast schedule is here.

Wise, 27, went three years between victories when he won an Olympic qualifier last month, according to TeamUSA.org.

The father of two struggled last season with a back injury and concussion but now looks like an Olympic medal favorite again.

Bowman, who turned 24 on Wednesday, is going back to the Olympics after a trying four years.

She underwent May 2014 left knee surgery, then tore her right ACL in January 2015. Still, she managed to win her third and fourth straight Winter X Games titles in 2015 and 2016.

Last season, Bowman’s streak was snapped by Frenchwoman Marie Martinod, who returned from a five-year break to win Olympic silver in 2014.

Martinod, a 33-year-old mom, made the podium in all of her events last season, including titles at X Games and the Olympic test event in South Korea.

This season, Bowman and Martinod have gone head-to-head four times, with Martinod finishing higher at every event until she was eliminated in qualifying this week.

But the most impressive skier this season has been Canadian Cassie Sharpe, who would have won Friday with any of the scores from her three runs — 91.60, 90.8 and 93.2. Sharpe also won the previous U.S. Olympic qualifier last month.

Bowman will be joined on the U.S. Olympic team by Sochi ski slopestyle silver medalist Devin Logan and Sochi Olympian Brita Sigourney, should they finish on the podium next week.

Even if they don’t, Logan and Sigourney have the best resumés of the remaining U.S. women. The team will include three or four women.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Ski Halfpipe 
(through four of five events)
1. David Wise — 200** QUALIFIED

2. Alex Ferreira — 180** (1st and 2nd)
3. Aaron Blunck — 140** (2nd and 3rd)
4. Torin Yater-Wallace — 150* (1st and 4th)
5. Gus Kenworthy — 116* (2nd and 7th)

1. Maddie Bowman — 140** QUALIFIED
2. Devin Logan — 130* (2nd and 4th)
2. Brita Sigourney — 130* (2nd and 4th)
4. Annalisa Drew — 95 (4th and 5th)
5. Carly Margulies — 72 (6th and 7th)
**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

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