The final competition at this year’s Audi quattro Winter Games NZ – the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Slopestyle at Cardrona – saw some of the biggest and best tricks of the entire event. Norway’s Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen and Nick Goepper from USA won the women and men’s gold medals with breathtaking runs set against a backdrop of New Zealand’s Southern Alps.
Only six athletes contested the women’s final after Eveline Bhend (SUI) and Anna Vincenti (GBR) did not start. The performance of 18-year-old Christiansen, however, was good enough to beat a field of hundreds as she went huge and landed smooth over Cardrona’s world-class slopestyle course. Dara Howell from Canada and Germany’s Lisa Zimmermann took silver and bronze respectively with best scores of 84.40 and 72.00.
Christiansen, last season’s best overall freeskier on the AFP World Tour and second in slopestyle, landed a first run that scored 91.00 and featured a slide over the wall ride to switch lipside onto the down rail, frontside 450 off the canon rail then into the kicker line with a left 540 mute, switch right 900 tail and right 900 tail.
The margin remained big enough to ensure her second run became a glory lap as she was last to drop. Even then, it was clear there was more to come from her this season in the lead up to the Sochi Winter Olympics where freestyle skiing makes its debut: “Not my best but I’ve just got to train harder. I put down two solid runs so I’m stoked.”
James ‘Woodsy’ Woods of Great Britain led the men’s comp up until the very last run with his stellar first run score of 92.00. But the pride of Sheffield was trumped by Goepper, last season’s number one slopestyle skier on the AFP World Tour, who scored 94.00 with a spectacular run starting switch 360 to 180 over the wall ride to transfer frontside switch up to back 270 out on the downrail, hand drag 3 over the rainbow rail, a right double cork 1080 mute over the first kicker into left double cork 1260 tail on the second and finishing with a switch rightside double cork 900 screamin’.
Woods still just managed to edge out Australia’s Russ Henshaw into bronze and reverse their final AFP slopestyle standings from last season in this, the first FIS World Cup of this year.
Golden boy Goepper said he changed it up on his second run, adding another trick on the first jump: “I’m just insanely happy to be here – it’s really, really surreal and I didn’t even imagine this is how the day would go but I’m just happy to be down here in New Zealand. It’s one of my favourite places to be and I couldn’t be happier.”
Asked about the current level of freeskiing at Winter Games NZ and on the world circuit, he added: “Today was ridiculous. You’ve got to be learning new tricks in your down time. It’s so consistent; every guy out there is so smooth and so technical; it’s tough!”
Head judge, Greg Tuscher also gave his personal take on today’s event and the future of freestyle skiing.
“Today was a great comp. The level is really high now and it’s really tough to judge because the top guys make no mistakes. The level is going to keep getting higher and the judging is going to have to follow. We’re at the point where everyone, judges, athletes and coaches have to come together and talk about where we want to go with the sport and find a way of keeping the spirit. Maybe we can reward less spinning with better style, or better execution.”
With American freeskiers, Maggie Voisin and Devin Logan finishing out of the medals today, Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen’s win meant that US women failed to achieve a grand slam of all ski and snowboard freestyle events at this year’s Games. However, head coach Mike Jankowski will go home happy after Nick Goepper’s men’s gold added to the women’s medals won by Devin Logan, Jamie Anderson and Kelly Clark at Cardrona over the past week.
The Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2013 concludes later today with the official closing ceremony at 2pm at the Lotto Village on Ardmore Street, followed by the JUCY Meltdown Concert at the Lake Wanaka Centre when NZ band, Tahuna Breaks bring the Games to a stomping close. Tickets are still available from the Lotto Villages in both towns. The Adventure Film Festival presented by Auckland Airport’s ends tonight with a ‘Best of the Fest’ special showing at the Lotto Village.
A complete list of results is available from http://wintergamesnz.com/results.