KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUS, 16 FEB 2013 – The weather over the Rosa Khutor Extreme park threatened to overshadow the action taking place on the slope once again on Saturday, as the FIS Freestyle World Cup halfpipe athletes lined up to drop in at the Sochi Olympic test event.
Heavy rain through the morning's qualifications turned to heavy snow by early afternoon, and it was all that organizers and volunteers could do keep the pipe clear of snow and suitably slick for what turned out to be a stunning finals showdown on Saturday night.
Finals took place under heavy clouds and light snow, but visibility was good and constant side-slipping by the volunteers worked to keep the pipe in good condition.
However, on the ladies' side it seemed for the first few riders that just getting through a run on one's feet was a solid option, with girls like Mirjam Jaeger (SUI) establishing herself in 5th with a clean and stylish but restrained run.
Two Canadians soon upped the ante, though, as Keltie Hansen and Rosalind Groenewoud both locked in runs that included 900s – left side for Hansen and right side for Groenewoud – followed later by left side 720s. With just enough amplitude and style to best her countrywoman, Groenewoud was able to claim 2nd while Hansen settled for 3rd.
Top of the podium, however, went to the diminutive Swiss veteran Virginie Faivre, whose big, spotless run featured an alley-oop critical grab, left 540 safety grab, right 540 safety grab sequence that was enough to push her just ahead of Groenewoud, with a score of 80.8 to the Canadian's 79.0.
Yater-Wallace steps up in second run
First run of the men's final quickly erased any questions of whether or not the guys would hold back in light of the challenging conditions, with 15ft first-hit airs and double-corked 1260s getting launched all over the pipe.
However, several good runs came to early ends, as even a slight slip in focus and loss of edge control proved to be enough to throw even the best halfpipe skiers in the world off their sticks in the snow-softened pipe.
Mike Riddle established an early standard that went unmatched through the first round, with a left side double-corked 1260, right 900 tail, left 900 Japan sequence to start his run that quickly changed the tone of the competition. However, several other skiers were threatening Riddle's lead, throwing big tricks but unable to complete their lines.
As it turned out, a couple of those skiers would end up able to stomp the full pull, and those two young Americans did so with aplomb.
First up was 17 year old Torin Yater-Wallace (USA), who had been going absolutely huge all week in training but had faltered near the bottom of his first run earlier. His hit started with a staggering right side double-corked 1260 mute, followed by a left 1080 tail, switch right 720 double Japan, AN alley-oop double rodeo Japan that was bigger than some skiers managed on their first hit of the pipe, and ended with a slick double rodeo 900 Japan. The run earned Yater-Wallace a score of 93.8 and put him well in the lead.
Next up after Yater-Wallace was his countryman Gus Kenworthy. Kenworthy threw a solid top section, but his bottom hit sequence of left side 900 tail grab, to a right 900 tail, and to a stunning last-hit double-corked 1080 safety grab looked like it might be enough to eclipse his teammate.
When the scores were tallied up, however, Kenworthy was left just shy of first but ahead of Riddle, and took home second place.
After top qualifier David Wise's final run was through (which, though solid, landed him in 5th place) and the podium presentation was finished, a heavy fog dropped dropped down and all but obliterated the any view of the pipe. As it turned out on Saturday, the weather was, in fact, on our side.
Torin Yater-Wallace's (USA) scored his third straight World Cup podium, keeping him on top of the World Cup halfpipe overall leader board
Virginie Faivre (SUI) recorded her second podium of the season but first win in over four years to overtake Rosalind Groenewoud (CAN) in the World Cup halfpipe overall rankings
It was a big day for Canadian halfpipe skiers, with Mike Riddle 3rd for the men and Groenewoud and Keltie Hansen in 2nd and 3rd respectively on the ladies' side
- American skiers made up 11 of the 24 athletes who qualified for finals
- An unbelieveable effort from organizers and volunteers ensured that the pipe was in the best possible condition, and the best condition it has been in all week
Torin Yater-Wallace - "The conditions were not exactly the best, there were definitely a lot of hard runs being thrown but compared to a perfect sunshine, blue-bird day it would be a little different. But I'm definitely stoked and thinking the Olympics will be here next year will be sweet."
"I wouldn't consider myself the best in the world. I've been consistent with events but I think other guys have been better so I'm just going to try to build my bag of tricks."
Virginie Favre - "It's the full thing. I can't believe it, but actually I am there, I am wearing the yellow bib here in Sochi. It was pretty hectic conditions and the girls did really well and I'm really happy to win here. I just can't believe it. My mum, she didn't understand me, she was just like 'what happened'. We kind of lost the [winning] habit but now I am back so I need to keep it going."
Rosalind Groenewoud - "Competing at night always makes visibility a little less of an issue because we have the bright lights and it really illuminates both of the walls nicely. I struggled a little bit with the soft snow but we're an outside sport. We've dealt with it before and we'll deal with it again."