Though the sky was not the piercing blue we had been enjoying for the first few days of the 2015 Winter Games, and the wind was tempestuous at times, this morning the halfpipe at Cardrona was the scene of an electric 3-run final for the dual-sanctioned FIS World Cup and AFP Platinum Winter Games Halfpipe competition.
The women started the day off with Devin Logan putting complete ownership on the final from the first round. With a massive tweaked straight air mute-grab (a fitting tribute to the late-great JP Auclair on his birthday) into a perfectly landed alley-oop flatspin 5, she then linked a back-to-back left 5 tail to right 5 japan. Finishing out the run with a left 7 to switch alley-oop 5, Devin skied a way with an 83.2 and a clear lead after run 1. The alley-oop flatspin from Logan was a trick we saw years ago in NZ over in the pipe at SnowPark, and so it is awesome to see Devin bring it back into her competition runs with such success.
“It feels great to win,” she said. “This is the first competition before the Northern Hemisphere season starts up so it’s awesome to put some runs down. Everyone’s killing it and putting down some solid runs. I added in an alley-oop flat 5 which is a new one for me so I was glad to get it in the competition atmosphere. Thankfully, I landed my first run since I fell on my second and third so I’m glad that worked out!”
It was a close race for second and third. Local hero Janina Kuzma came out strong with her trademark left and right flairs, and both way 7’s. The right 7 is a trick she recently worked on at summer camp and Kuzma is stoked to bring it in to competition this season. The technical flow of her run combined with some solid grabs and good amplitude narrowly bested her rival and last year’s FIS crystal globe winner, Ayana Onozuka. Ayana brought her amplitude and grabs to the top of her run, but despite the only switch 7 in the women’s contest today, it wasn’t enough to beat Kuzma, and Ayana ended the contest in 3rd place.
For Janina it was a special result in her home pipe, winning the first medal for the Kiwis at the 2015 Winter Games NZ. “It feels awesome to be second on my home mountain in front of my hometown crowd. I couldn’t be more proud. Everyone came out to cheer me on and my family’s here so I’m stoked… I’m stoked for the other girls on the podium too. We’re all trying to step it up and put down new runs. Some worked and some didn’t but I think that the top three girls ended up on the podium.”
In the men’s content it was all about the Frenchies today. ‘The Freeski Project’ as they call themselves swept the podium with Kevin Rolland owning the pipe with his massive amplitude and flawless execution. His first run of the contest held out to be the winning run and earned him a 92.0. With a giant left double 12 mute into an equally large alley-oop flat 3 safety, switch left 7 double japan to right 9 tail and finally ending it by sending a double cork 10 mute at the bottom of the pipe, Rolland was the skier to beat.
The Americans Aaron Blunck and Lyman Courier were expected to challenge Rolland for the top spot, but were unable to put down runs with some heavy falls in the flat light.
The rest of the field were pushing hard for the podium, but in the end it was Toto Krief and and Benoit Valentin who lit up the race for 2nd and 3rd. With a final run score of 90.4 Toto narrowly ousted Benoit from the silver position and at the end of the contest the french podium found themselves 14 points clear of 4th place.
“There’s a pretty clear distinction between the podium three and the rest of the roster”, said Head Judge Lao Chazelas. “Everyone outside the French team fell on their runs so that definitely played a role, but their runs were really well executed with good amplitude. We would have loved to see Beau and Lyman [Currier] land their runs since they were going so hard.”
The only Kiwi in the mens finals, Beau-James Wells qualified one place ahead of Krief on thursday and brought an all-or-nothing attitude to todays finals, switching up his run and going for a new rightside dub12 that he has never tried in competition before. After laying down run after run in training this morning, the Beau-Lion was able to put the first one to his feet in the finals but 2 more falls kept him out of the running. He will shrug it off in his usual way and focus on slopestyle and big air which will be going down later in the week.
The day belonged to a proud French team and an ecstatic Kevin Rolland.
For Rolland, it was a dream come true. “It couldn’t have worked out better for us. A French podium was a goal but we tried not to focus too much on it. I stomped my first run, which is pretty rare. Normally I have a hard time dealing with the pressure, so landing it was definitely a confidence boost. From there, I was able to alter my runs according to the competition. We couldn’t be happier to land the one, two, three.”
“Every contest we try to do this hold up but we never have it, and now it’s done!”
The Winter Games continues tomorrow with the IPC Alpine Adaptive Slalom Southern Hemisphere Cup races at Coronet Peak near Queenstown. 2015 dual IPC World Champion Corey Peters, and 2010 Winter Olympic gold medallist Adam Hall will be racing for New Zealand.
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