David Wise Wins Gold | Men’s 2018 Olympic Ski Halfpipe Finals Result and Report

Wise pipped David Ferreira to the top prize as 16 year old New Zealander Nico Porteous took the bronze

Alex Ferreira, USA, during the men’s skiing halfpipe qualification at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. Photo: Sam Mellish

Team USA weren’t able to take the clean sweep that many expected them to do in the men’s ski halfpipe, but they did take the gold and silver as David Wise made Olympic history by becoming the first man to land all four double corks during his final run in the Winter Olympics.

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David Wise celebrating stomping his historic run.

A score of 97.2 was enough to see him beat Alex Ferreira – who looked like he was going for gold the whole way after Wise crashed his first two runs – but even after upping his score on all three runs, Alex’s eventual 96.40 wasn’t enough to win.

16 year old New Zealander Nico Porteous made history by disrupting the American domination to take bronze with a score of 94.80, and the hugs between Porteous, Ferreira and Wise told you everything you needed to know about why we love the sport at the end of the contest.

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Alex Ferreira, the second last man down the mountain, was the first and only man to put down a score of over 90 in the first round of runs.

He got a 92.60 and after that it was just a question of whether that score would hold. Aaron Blunck followed him down to finish off round one with an albeit possibly underscored effort of 81.40 to show just how high the judges were rating Alex’s run (and Aaron wasn’t able to reach the medal spots despite landing a final run that brought him up to 84.80).

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Alex Ferreira after run two.

Alex Ferreira’s run was eventually toppled by an insane second run of 94.80 from young New Zealand star Nico Porteous, but Ferreira came back to stomp an insane run including a double 10 to flair that scored a 96.0 and at that point, it was clear that he would be hard to catch. It was big, it was techincal and clearly it was just what the judges were looking for.

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But his compatriot David Wise saw the challenge, took it up, and somehow beat Ferreira out.

Defending Winter Olympic Sochi halfpipe champion David Wise was the hot favourite in the run up to the Olympics. He’s been on fine form in the FIS halfpipe world cup in the 17-18 season, claiming a couple of gold medals already, and he won the 2018 X Games halfpipe as well, but the nerves seemed to be getting the best of him in Pyeongchang.

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David Wise, USA, during the men’s skiing halfpipe. Photo: Sam Mellish

After Wise struggled in qualifying for the mens’ ski halfpipe final, crashing out in his first run and then struggling to a 79.6 to qualify in ninth with his second, some were doubting his chances of getting on the podium, and a rough start to finals saw him struggle to exercise his demons as he crashed out in both his first and second run.

If you’ve ever wondered if the pressure gets to a reigning Olympic champion, the answer is clearly yes. In his third and final run he proved they weren’t getting the better of him though. He became the first man to do all four double corks in an Olympic Games and was rewarded with a 97.20 and first place as a result.

If you think of skiing – you can ride left, ride right, right going forward and ride going backwards – and David Wise stuck a double cork in every single one of those directions.

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Alex Ferreira built on his own run again to get over the 96 mark but it wasn’t good enough to beat Wise.

The Americans dominated in qualification regardless though, with reigning world champion Aaron Blunck qualifying in first, Alex Ferreira in second and Torin Yater-Wallace in third, but the rest of the world weren’t going to let them away with it easy.

Torin Yater-Wallace struggled in run one and smashed an enormous double alleyoop on run two but crashed out again after running after running out of pipe down bottom.

In run three he nailed a right side double 1260 but then caught the edge and went down again. It’s a testimony to skiing that the people who looked most concerned about him after the crash were those waiting in the medal positions at the bottom.

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Alex Ferreira, USA, during the men’s skiing halfpipe at the Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. Photo: Sam Mellish

If anyone was going to trouble the USA domination in finals, the qualifications suggested it would be the New Zealand brothers Byron Wells and Beau-James Wells, who qualified in fourth and fifth – but that duo of competitors was reduced to just Beau-James after Byron crashed out in qualifiers and was unable to compete.

Nevertheless, 16 year old Kiwi Nico Porteous also qualified further down the field and proved he was certainly not there to make up the numbers when he built on a great first run with a mesmerising second run that scored 94.80 and put him into the lead. That’s a medal score.

And his face after the score told you everything you needed to know.

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On his final run Nico took is easy and sent it steezy down the course. He was settling for the 94.80, the run of his life so far, and you can see why. He laid down the gauntlet for the other riders, and only two of them were able to pick it up and beat him to the top of the table.

Beau-James turned his qualification run into a first final run of 87.40 where he sent some astronomical hits. He effectively landed his run first time and it was always going to be hard for him to build on that from there. In run two he went bigger but had a couple of flat landings, and he seemed to be using his second run to check a few things out for his final run.

That final run saw him step it up to a 91.6, sending an early switch double and then completing his usual run. He can be proud of that.

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James Beau Wells, New Zeland, during the men’s skiing halfpipe qualification at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. Photo: Sam Mellish

Kevin Rolland put down a sick run in qualifying to rank in sixth place as well, but it came at a price. He was seen to notably be holding his left hip after his run. Whether that injury was notable or not in the final is hard to say, but Rolland did crash out in both of his first runs.

Come run three he took another huge hit, and it’s fair to say it was hard to watch. The man who has won everything but the Olympics was unable to stick a run down in the Pyeongchang halfpipe.

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Kevin Rolland, France, during the men’s skiing halfpipe. Photo: Sam Mellish

His French compatriot Thomas Krief is the only non-North American to win a FIS halfpipe stop in the 17-18 season, but he couldn’t put down a run either. It was an off day for the French.

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Thomas Krief, France, during the men’s skiing halfpipe at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics at the Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. Photo: Sam Mellish

The Canadians Mike Riddle and Noah Bowman meanwhile were looking to up their game from qualifications, where they finished in seventh and ninth – though Noah Bowman’s ninth place finish was somewhat controversial – and they quickly landed their first runs to go temporarily into first and second place.

Noah Bowman’s first run of 89.40 set the pace from the get-go for the rest of the field. It was a spot that immediately put Noah in first place, and even as the higher scores kept coming in, the 89.40 kept Bowman in the third medal spot until the third and finals runs.

Bowman crashed his final run and when David Wise finally landed his run, Noah was pushed out of the medal spots.

It wasn’t to be Canada’s day. It was to be the day of David Wise. It was to be the day that Alex Ferreira almost won gold, and a day that a 16 year old kid went above and beyond what anybody expected of him to win bronze. It was a contest that will not be forgotten soon.

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While many of us will never even get close to attempting a switch triple cork 1440 Octo grab in real life, thanks to the magic of video games, and in particular ‘Steep: Road To The Olympics’, that possibility is much closer than you think.

Get STEEP & the Road To The Olympics add-on in the STEEP: Winter Games Edition. Available now

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Men’s 2018 Olympic Snowboard Big Air Qualifer – Results and Report

Here comes the quad squad… or do they?

Max Parrot about to make that jump his bitch.

Max Parrot about to make that jump his bitch.

Night Shift: Tom Copsey

After the female riders delivered an frankly mind-blowing Olympic debut for snowboarding Big Air at Pyeongchang 2018, it’s now the turn of the men. With triples aplenty and rotations consistently in the 1620s (and even 1800s), forget kicking back with a beer for this one – it’s a sea-sickness tablet that you’ll need.

“it looks like the jump in Pyeongchang doesn’t lend itself to quad corks”

Fortunately/unfortunately (delete according to preference), it looks like the jump in Pyeongchang doesn’t lend itself to quad corks. That’s potentially bad news for Chris Corning and Billy Morgan, both of whom have one in the tank. Max Parrot and Marcus Kleveland do too, of course, but their track record at winning big events with just triples will stand them in good stead nonetheless.

Indeed, based on recent results it’s safe to assume that Max, Marcus or Mark McMorris will take this one. The field is strong throughout though, with Stale Sandbech, Seb Toots and slopestyle winner Red Gerard all amongst the likely challengers. We’re also hoping that Peetu Piiroinen, the one-time god of Big Air, can show the form he did in the halfpipe and make another Olympic final.

Unlike the women’s qualification, where all the ladies went in one big two-run super heat, the dudes were split into two heats for their qualis. Six dudes from each heat would advance to the finals, ensuring plenty of squeaky bum time as tickets were at a premium, and so under perfect bluebird skies, things got rolling…

Kyle Mack was dropping Japans into his triple 14s.

Close but no cigar for ya boy Rene Rinnekangas.

QUALIFication Heat 1

There was a good mix of heavy hitters, young pretenders and long shots rolled into heat one, but it’s fair to say that all eyes were on Canadian Max Parrot to see what he’d pull out of his deep wizard’s sleeve. It’s fair to say that he certainly didn’t disappoint and, like Anna Gasser in the women’s qualifiers the other day, put down a clear statement of intent that he wasn’t here to wear fancy clothes and wave at cameras; he was focussed on cementing his reputation as the best Big Air rider around.

Though the much-maligned back 14 triple mute was wheeled out by a few riders (Red Gerard, Yuri Okubo and Rowan Coultas) it was impressive to see that it was not as mundanely ubiquitous as it was a couple of years back when it tended to induce mass narcolepsy at Big Air contests. Here, thankfully, there was plenty of variety to keep things interesting – the back triple 14 was still a popular choice of rotation, but Melon grabs (Chris Corning, Alberto Maffei, Rene Rinnekangas, Nicolas Huber), Japans (yes Kyle Mack!), or even the switch backside version (Michael Schaerer) kept the triple-dipping disco more interesting.

And it wasn’t all about corking thrice. Some riders chose to eschew multi-dips for good old fashioned flat spins, but it was clear from the judging that spin-to-win was the name of the game here. A Cab 14 Melon from Jamie Nicholls wasn’t rewarded with a number big enough to make finals, nor was Ståle Sandbech’s front 14 tail, but when Niklas Mattsson stomped his sizeable landing gear down on a flat-spun back 16 mute he bagged 90 points and secured second place.

Red Gerard hot-stepping into the finals.

Red Gerard hot-stepping into the finals.

The battle for the last qualification spots was intense. Less than a point separated sixth-placed Red Gerard and Yuri Okubo in ninth to give you an idea of how close it was, and there was a sense that it was tough for the judges to separate the riders putting down 1440s without some pungent spice to set them apart. In many cases it was splitting hairs.

Perhaps the biggest shock was Ståle not making it through. He looked to build on his opening front 14 tail by sending it to the moon – the cameraman lost him he went so big – but he couldn’t hold the landing and was steadily bumped down into an agonising 7th. But in positive shock news, Swiss young buck Michael Scharer putting down a switch back 14 triple mute to make it through was great to see, as was Mattsson finally making one count to nab the second highest score of the heat.

What was in no doubt, however, is that from this showing Max Parrot has to be odds-on favourite to win gold. He stomped the bejesus out of two front double 1440 Mutes without appearing to break a sweat. There’s certainly more to come from the Canadian in the finals.

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Thank you, Torgeir!

Thank you, Jonas!

QUALIFICATION HEAT 2

Heat 2 had the remainder of the hotly-tipped Canadian contingent – Mark McMorris, Seb Toutant and Tyler Nicholson – but it was to be the on-fire Garlos Garcia Knight from NZ who came out swinging hardest in this qualification session. Not only that, there were some crazy high scores being thrown around in round 1, some less-hyped riders making the cut, and some early baths for some pre-event podium picks.

We lost the stream for the best part of the first runs (we’ve have now caught up thanks to the magical rewind button), so were watching the live score ticker. Quickly it was clear we were missing something special. Carlos Garcia Knight – 88.75. Torgeir Bergrem – 94.25. Seb Toutant – 91. Jonas Boesiger – 96. WTF?! We had no idea what these scores were rewarding and cursed German internet vigorously. When we caught up we found CGK had put down a switch backside 16 mute with the slightest of handdrags, Bergrem a monster, textbook back 16, Toots a Cab 16 triple and young Swissman Boesiger a backside triple cork 16 mute, and ultra deep to boot.

It was full on bonkers boarding, and once again showed that the judges are happy to dish out big scores for flat spins, if the rotations enter the renaissance era of 1620 or higher. After the first round of exchanges it was Billy Morgan sat on the bubble, but with the likes of Marcus Kleveland, Peetu Piiroinen and Tyler Nicholson yet to fully open it up it was a worrying place to be going in to round 2.

Bubble boy Billy Morgan.

Bubble boy Billy Morgan.

But, as with compatriot Ståle Sandbech in the earlier heat, the hotly tipped Kleveland had a shocker on this second run, sitting down on a back 16 and with that his time at the Olympics was ended. Torgeir and Boesiger – both either confident that they’d qualified or aware they hadn’t anything more in the tank to one-up their previous efforts – treated us with some style (Torgeir in the shape of his sexual switch back 5 Method, Jonas with a Swiss style Method), but others who hadn’t hit the mid-90s knew they needed to turn it up to book their finals spots.

CGK, as he’s done throughout these Games, showed he’s got more than what it takes to dine at snowboarding’s top table by sending his switch back 16 to the moon, grabbing till 12 and stomping deep into the landing. It would net him 97.5 points and qualify him in first place. McMorris, sat on an 89 for a front triple 14, dropped in fakie for a switch back 16 that had a whiff of the multi-corkage and was good enough to bump him up to 95.75 and secure his spot. A sit down on the landing trying to improve his Cab 16 triple meant Seb Toutant would stay on 91 points, but it would prove enough.

The last of the six final tickets, despite late rallys from Peetu, Nicholson and an 1800 attempt by Vlad Khadarin, was claimed by Billy Morgan, who put down a bigger, cleaner version of his back 14 triple nose to earn 90.5 points and secure the final place. And with that, Saturday morning’s finallists were all decided.

Women’s Big Air finals are next on the agenda, so we’ll see you at some stupid early time on Friday morning for those!

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American Domination | Men’s 2018 Olympic Ski Halfpipe Qualification Results and Report

Team USA launch their push for a clean sweep of the medals in men’s halfpipe skiing

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The Americans took all three top spots at the men’s ski halfpipe qualifying. Photo: Sam Mellish

The results from the men’s ski halfpipe qualifications are in, and the Americans have laid down the gauntlet for finals after USA’s Aaron Bluck, Alex Ferreira and Torin Yater-Wallace finished in first, second and third.

Rather than the Canadians, it was the New Zealanders that followed the Americans in after, with Wells brothers Byron and Beau-James Wells sending it big and qualifying in fourth and fifth place.

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Byron Wells celebrates after sticking a stylish second run.

It was an event which was categorised by crashes and mistakes for the first half of the field. Eight skiers from the first 11 either crashed out hard or made a big mistake. This was something that set the bar for the qualifications and lead to a situation where a score in the high 60s or low 70s would get you into the finals.

Indeed, American favourite and defending Olympic champion David Wise bailed on his first run and took it easy on his second to make sure he put down a score a 79.6. It wasn’t a huge score and not what David would have wanted, but he’s in the final – even if it does mean he might have to change his game plan for it.

Aaron Bluck also crashed out on run one, but a stylish second run featuring a starting 720 and a heap of sick 900s was enough to bag him a 94.4 and send him into first.

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Aaron Blunck after a hell of a second run.

Torin Yater Wallace was the first favourite to stick a big score, bagging an 89.6 in run one and then going on to slip, slide and style his way down run two.

His good friend and fellow US team mate Alex Ferreira followed him and went even better shortly after though. He was late with some grabs but really stuck a big run for a score of 92.60.

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The Canadian’s were also on form, and possibly in parts underated, with Mike Riddle scoring 82.20 and Noah Bowman scoring a 77.20 – which Woodsy said “he thought was better than Aaron Blunck’s run”.

They’ll be desperate not to let the US away with a clean sweep of the medals at the final, which takes place tomorrow on 21 February at 11:30am local time in South Korea or 2:30am in the UK.

Mens Ski Halfpipe Finals Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 2018 © Sam Mellish

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympic halfpipe at Phoenix Snow Park in South Korea. Photo: Sam Mellish

Team GB had three athletes in action in qualifying – Murray Buchan, Xander Glavatsky-Yeadon and Peter Speight.

The format of the Olympic halfpipe qualification sees each skier do two runs down the slope (with only their best score counting), and the best 12 skiers qualifying for the finals.

Unfortunately none of the British boys were able to qualify for finals this time around.

Murray Buchan was the only Brit to land his first run – and he did so with style. There was a big 900 to start and from there the run included a left five, a double flair, a right 720, a second double flair. It scored a 66.

On his second run Murray was the land man down the pipe and just had to up his score a couple of marks to qualify. He landed his run again – and we thought it looked cleaner – but was devastatingly marked down for missed grabs and scored 65.4, missing out on finals by just 2.6 points.

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Murray after sticking his first run in men’s halfpipe qualifications.

Xander unfortunately bailed out on both runs, and after also crashing on run one, Pete Speight was able to stick a second run including back to back 720s and back to back 900s which scored 64.60.

There’s been a lot of talk in the run up to the men’s ski halfpipe that Team USA are strong favourites and are in perfect place to do a clean sweep of the medals.

The FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup series has had five stops for halfpipe so far in the 17/18 season and Americans have won four of them – David Wise has taken two of those FIS gold medals and Alex Ferreira has taken one gold and two silvers.

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David Wise also won the men’s halfpipe at the 2018 X Games, and when you add Aaron Blunck, the 21 year old who won the 2017 X Games halfpipe and current world champion, it’s a hell of a formidable line up from the Americans.

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Canadian fans at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics men’s freestyle skiing in Pyeongchang. Photo: Sam Mellish

The rest of the field challenged the idea at the qualifier that this event was just about North America though.

Byron Wells from New Zealand stuck an 88.6 which oozed style. It was a ski run for the skiers and one that challenged the idea you have to spin for days to succeed in halfpipe.

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Bearded Byron Wells is also a helicopter pilot. Badass. Pictured after run one in the men’s halfpipe qualifications.

Byron’s brother Beau-James Wells put down two great runs as well – first scoring 86.2 and then going on to bag an 88.2 with his second run – after telling Woodsy to shoutout the UK grime scene for him from the commentary box; a great way to win over any British viewer.

The French will have hope that their men can bother the favourites though. Kevin Rolland is famous for his style and experience in the sport. He’s got a bunch of medals to his name, and his first run of 87.80 was strong (and enough to give him a training run on the second), but he seemed to leave the pipe with an injury to his left hip after a shallow landing on one particular hip. It’ll be interesting to see if that is still bothering him come finals.

Womens Ski Halfpipe Finals Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 2018 © Sam Mellish

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympic halfpipe at Phoenix Snow Park in South Korea. Photo: Sam Mellish

His French compatriot Thomas Krief is actually the only man from outside of North America to win a halfpipe stop on the FIS tour this year, and the wildcard pick will be looking to put a cat amongst the pigeons after scraping through qualifying with a score of 74.8. Krief went big on his second run – possibly bigger than you should go in qualifying – and crashed out on his second run, so it was a nervous wait for him but he did indeed make it through.

The North Americans have been running rampant on the halfpipe so far though. Chloe Kim and Shaun White cleaned up for the American’s in the halfpipe snowboarding, and the results of the women’s ski halfpipe Olympic finals showed Canadian Cassie Sharpe at the top as well.

Could America showcase their dominance in the pipe even further in the halfpipe finals tomorrow? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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How Woodsy Played a Blinder in ‘The Best Skiing Slopestyle Competition in History’

Woodsy might not have got the result he wanted today, but in the context his performance was insane.

James Woods (Great Britain) during the men’s ski slopestyle finals at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on 18th February 2018 at Phoenix Snow Park in South Korea © Sam Mellish

To misquote Radiohead, for a minute there we lost ourselves. To every Brit standing at the bottom of the slopestyle course in Pyeongchang, and I’m sure all of those watching at home, it seemed for a short while that history might be repeated.

James Woods had put down a blinding run in the men’s ski slopestyle final. Like his team mate Izzy Atkin in yesterday’s ladies’ competition, he was sitting in the bronze medal position with just a few skiers left to drop. Once again, the wait was agonising. But in the end it was not to be.

Nick Goepper of the US, always a threat on a pair of skis, came through with a run that was cleaner than Woodsy’s, landing himself in the silver medal position and bumping Woodsy into fourth.

“The switch triple cork 1440 octograb is a hammer of such magnitude it would put Mjolnir to shame.”

“Fourth isn’t that great, it definitely sucks,” said Woodsy afterwards. “You’re so close to the action.” But while he was disappointed “results-wise” he was proud of the way he’d skied, and rightly so.

Woods’ run, which he’d been “constructing for a good amount of time” mixed up techy rail tricks up top (including a transfer over the goal post reminiscent of Red Gerard) with a triple cork 1440, a 12, and then his signature trick – a massive switch triple cork 1440 octograb, a hammer of such magnitude it would put Mjolnir to shame.

Having put it down once in qualifying, Woodsy then stomped the same run twice in the three-run final. But he couldn’t quite keep it clean from top to bottom. On his first run he fell on the final trick, taking a heavy blow to the chin. His second was marred by coming off a rail slightly early, and on his third he sat down slightly on the landing of a 450 out. They were minor mistakes, but enough to cost him a medal.

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Woodsy with his coach Pat Sharples. Photo: Sam Mellish

Of course, throwing down a run like that, Woodsy hadn’t just been going for any medal, he’d been going for gold. And he wasn’t far off. As his coach Pat Sharples said afterwards: “I know I’m probably biassed but I think if he’d landed it cleanly, he would have won.”

Pat wasn’t the only one. Might the podium have looked different if Woodsy had kept it clean, we asked the gold medallist Oystein Braaten afterwards? “Yeah, I think so. It’s hard to say, but with the run he did, it was looking really good.”

“It was such a good last trick, I’m bummed for Woodsy,” Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, who took the bronze, agreed. “And also for the other skiers who were putting it out there.” Because Woodsy wasn’t the only skier who’d tried to tear the Phoenix Park slopestyle course a new one. As Nick Goepper said afterwards, “that was the greatest skiing slopestyle competition in history.” He wasn’t exaggerating either.

Oystein Braaten, the Swedish skier who claimed gold with a super clean run including two switch 14s. Photo: Sam Mellish

Woods himself had set the bar early when he landed his run in qualifying, but he’d known he would had to come out all guns blazing. “When Sharpey [Pat Sharples] brought me the startlist last night, I had a look at it and I thought ‘goodness me’,” he said. “It was like staring at a brick wall. Just to make it to this finals was incredible.”

The field was one of the strongest ever assembled in skiing slopestyle. The course was excellent, pushing riders to be as creative as possible. And the conditions were spot on, with barely a hint of the winds which had derailed the women’s snowboard slopestyle contest earlier in the week. It was a perfect storm. One look at the heavy hitters who didn’t make it through to finals was enough to show you the quality of the skiing on display.

Swedish skier Henrik Harlaut, who’s won enough X Games silverware to sink a galleon, was one of those who fell by the wayside. His countryman Jesper Tjader didn’t make the cut either. Russ Henshaw, Jackson Wells and McCrae Williams all put down runs, but none were deemed good enough. Woodsy’s team mate Tyler Harding skied amazingly well through the rails, landing probably the techiest trick of the day with a 450-on 450-off. But without sticking his kickers there was no way he was going through.

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Gus Kenworthy was just one of the big names gunning for gold in the finals, but he couldn’t put down a clean run. Photo: Sam Mellish

The judges must have been relieved that qualifying was only two runs. They’d given Woods a 90.20 and the top place qualifier 95.40. It wasn’t a question of tweaking their scoring scale so much as ripping it up and starting again.

Runs that would win any other competition were dismissed out of hand. Andri Ragettli of Switzerland who had qualified through in second was given a mere 85.80. Oscar Wester, the owner of that top qualifying score, put down a run that included a massive alley-oop double rodeo 9. It was only good enough for 11th place.

“Qualification was mind-blowing and the final was two times that,” was Goepper’s analysis, and Woodsy agreed. “Everybody brought their A Game,” he said, “I couldn’t be prouder for freeskiing.”

“Runs that would win any other competition were dismissed out of hand.”

It was a sentiment that the medallists shared. As ABM said: “Today was an incredible contest for ski slopestyle, showing the world what our sport is.” Goepper said. “I’m an athlete first but I’m a super fan second. Even in training, I kept commenting to the guys on the lift, like ‘wow’.”

All of which helps put Woodsy’s achievement into context. The day may not have ended with the result that he wanted. But in the best freeskiing slopestyle contest the world has ever seen, he’d given it his all, and he’d smashed it out of the park.

And seeing him standing there with blood dripping down his chin (the result of that nasty first run crash) there was no doubt in any of the spectators’ minds that the boy who grew up on Sheffield dryslope could hold his head high. He’d skied out of his skin, pushing the world’s best right to the wire, and driving the sport he loves forward in the process.

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James Woods | How the British Skier Pushed ‘The Best Slopestyle Competition in History’

Woodsy might not have got the result he wanted today, but in the context his performance was insane.

James Woods (Great Britain) during the men’s ski slopestyle finals at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on 18th February 2018 at Phoenix Snow Park in South Korea © Sam Mellish

To misquote Radiohead, for a minute there we lost ourselves. To every Brit standing at the bottom of the slopestyle course in Pyeongchang, and I’m sure all of those watching at home, it seemed for a short while that history might be repeated.

James Woods had put down a blinding run in the men’s ski slopestyle final. Like his team mate Izzy Atkin in yesterday’s ladies’ competition, he was sitting in the bronze medal position with just a few skiers left to drop. Once again, the wait was agonising. But in the end it was not to be.

Nick Goepper of the US, always a threat on a pair of skis, came through with a run that was cleaner than Woodsy’s, landing himself in the silver medal position and bumping Woodsy into fourth.

“The switch triple cork 1440 octograb is a hammer of such magnitude it would put Mjolnir to shame.”

“Fourth isn’t that great, it definitely sucks,” said Woodsy afterwards. “You’re so close to the action.” But while he was disappointed “results-wise” he was proud of the way he’d skied, and rightly so.

Woods’ run, which he’d been “constructing for a good amount of time” mixed up techy rail tricks up top (including a transfer over the goal post reminiscent of Red Gerard) with a triple cork 1440, a 12, and then his signature trick – a massive switch triple cork 1440 octograb, a hammer of such magnitude it would put Mjolnir to shame.

Having put it down once in qualifying, Woodsy then stomped the same run twice in the three-run final. But he couldn’t quite keep it clean from top to bottom. On his first run he fell on the final trick, taking a heavy blow to the chin. His second was marred by coming off a rail slightly early, and on his third he sat down slightly on the landing of a 450 out. They were minor mistakes, but enough to cost him a medal.

Men's ski slopestyle final during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic

Woodsy with his coach Pat Sharples. Photo: Sam Mellish

Of course, throwing down a run like that, Woodsy hadn’t just been going for any medal, he’d been going for gold. And he wasn’t far off. As his coach Pat Sharples said afterwards: “I know I’m probably biassed but I think if he’d landed it cleanly, he would have won.”

Pat wasn’t the only one. Might the podium have looked different if Woodsy had kept it clean, we asked the gold medallist Oystein Braaten afterwards? “Yeah, I think so. It’s hard to say, but with the run he did, it was looking really good.”

“It was such a good last trick, I’m bummed for Woodsy,” Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, who took the bronze, agreed. “And also for the other skiers who were putting it out there.” Because Woodsy wasn’t the only skier who’d tried to tear the Phoenix Park slopestyle course a new one. As Nick Goepper said afterwards, “that was the greatest skiing slopestyle competition in history.” He wasn’t exaggerating either.

Oystein Braaten, the Swedish skier who claimed gold with a super clean run including two switch 14s. Photo: Sam Mellish

Woods himself had set the bar early when he landed his run in qualifying, but he’d known he would had to come out all guns blazing. “When Sharpey [Pat Sharples] brought me the startlist last night, I had a look at it and I thought ‘goodness me’,” he said. “It was like staring at a brick wall. Just to make it to this finals was incredible.”

The field was one of the strongest ever assembled in skiing slopestyle. The course was excellent, pushing riders to be as creative as possible. And the conditions were spot on, with barely a hint of the winds which had derailed the women’s snowboard slopestyle contest earlier in the week. It was a perfect storm. One look at the heavy hitters who didn’t make it through to finals was enough to show you the quality of the skiing on display.

Swedish skier Henrik Harlaut, who’s won enough X Games silverware to sink a galleon, was one of those who fell by the wayside. His countryman Jesper Tjader didn’t make the cut either. Russ Henshaw, Jackson Wells and McCrae Williams all put down runs, but none were deemed good enough. Woodsy’s team mate Tyler Harding skied amazingly well through the rails, landing probably the techiest trick of the day with a 450-on 450-off. But without sticking his kickers there was no way he was going through.

Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics Men's Freestyle Ski Slopestyle

Gus Kenworthy was just one of the big names gunning for gold in the finals, but he couldn’t put down a clean run. Photo: Sam Mellish

The judges must have been relieved that qualifying was only two runs. They’d given Woods a 90.20 and the top place qualifier 95.40. It wasn’t a question of tweaking their scoring scale so much as ripping it up and starting again.

Runs that would win any other competition were dismissed out of hand. Andri Ragettli of Switzerland who had qualified through in second was given a mere 85.80. Oscar Wester, the owner of that top qualifying score, put down a run that included a massive alley-oop double rodeo 9. It was only good enough for 11th place.

“Qualification was mind-blowing and the final was two times that,” was Goepper’s analysis, and Woodsy agreed. “Everybody brought their A Game,” he said, “I couldn’t be prouder for freeskiing.”

“Runs that would win any other competition were dismissed out of hand.”

It was a sentiment that the medallists shared. As ABM said: “Today was an incredible contest for ski slopestyle, showing the world what our sport is.”

Goepper said: “I’m an athlete first but I’m a super fan second. Even in training, I kept commenting to the guys on the lift, like ‘wow’.”

All of which helps put Woodsy’s achievement into context. The day may not have ended with the result that he wanted. But in the best freeskiing slopestyle contest the world has ever seen, he’d given it his all, and he’d smashed it out of the park.

And seeing him standing there with blood dripping down his chin (the result of that nasty first run crash) there was no doubt in any of the spectators’ minds that the boy who grew up on Sheffield dryslope could hold his head high. He’d skied out of his skin, pushing the world’s best right to the wire, and driving the sport he loves forward in the process.

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