Freeskiers rise to nature's challenge

Challenging weather conditions marred yesterday's freeski halfpipe competition at Cardrona Alpine Resort, the first freestyle skiing event of the Winter Games.

Thick cloud cover and wind at the top of the halfpipe caused lengthy delays throughout the qualifying rounds. However, the sun managed a small breakthrough about 2pm, giving competitors a clearer run in the finals.

Gus Kenworthy (men) and Devin Logan (women), both from the United States, claimed the gold medals.

Kenworthy's run included a left cork nine with a tail grab to right side cork seven with a tail grab, two switch left seven mutes, an alley oop flat spin 540 Japan and a left cork ten eight tail grab to finish, earning him 85 points.

Just behind Kenworthy was Wanaka's Jossi Wells, who scored 78.25 points out of a possible 100 on his run. Rounding out the top three in the men's competition was David Wise (US), with 75.25 points.

Kenworthy (19) said despite facing some tough opposition from Wells and Wise, the biggest competition had been from the weather.

"The conditions were definitely a little hard to work with.

There was a lot of fog and wind, but despite all the weather, everyone was still killing it and I was really stoked to see how much everyone was able to put down," Kenworthy said.

It was a clean sweep for the women from the US, with Devin Logan (18) clinching first place with a straight air to left five forty tail grab, to right side flair, to straight air, to straight air, to left side seven tail grab.

Jen Hudak came second and Maddie Bowman, a relative newcomer to the sport, finished in third.

Logan was pleased to "get a good one under the belt" in her first competition for a while.

"The weather was a bit rough so rather than putting it all out there I stuck to a safe run. It's great to have the opportunity to come down to New Zealand to get some extra training in and I'm stoked with today's result," Logan said.

Wanaka freeskier Amy Sheehan said poor visibility, a head wind and "slow" snow made things extremely difficult for the athletes.

"You can't see anything let alone get enough speed. I'm really proud of the girls. They're really stepping up to the plate. Everyone's working really hard. It's pretty brave I'd say."

For US competitor Taylor Seaton - who was first through the qualifiers but did not manage to stick his best run in finals and finished fourth - the mist on competitors' goggles was the biggest hindrance.

"The worst part is all the moisture in the air ... by the time you get to the last two hits you can't really see anything, so it's kind of a blind hit, so you're just going for it. It's all a game of luck in this weather," Seaton said.

Head judge Rafael Regazzoni, of France, said all of the athletes had struggled with the weather.

"The pipe was in great condition - it was the visibility that was an issue," he said.

All of the top finishers, men and women, have shared the podium at the X Games in recent years.

The Winter Games continues today with ski slopestyle at Snow Park and para snowboard world cup at Cardrona.

 

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