Halfpipe set to kick freestyle ski competition back into gear at SN2017
Sierra Nevada, SPA - With better weather right around the corner it’s time to get back on track with Freestyle Ski competition at the Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships, beginning with halfpipe qualifications on Thursday afternoon, which will be followed by world championship competition on Saturday night.
The most recent Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski event was the aerials competition which took place on Friday evening, with snowboard competition taking over the Spanish slopes for the past several days, including a hugely-entertaining snowboard halfpipe competition this past Saturday evening.
That such a successful competition could take place after nearly a week of temperatures soaring into the high teens in the days leading up to the event bodes extremely well for the ski halfpipe event, which will be taking place after a blast of cold air and snow rocked the resort from Monday night through to Wednesday evening. With the expert crews on hand and some more typically “wintery” temperatures to work with, the Sierra Nevada 2017 pipe should be in pristine condition come time for Thursday night’s qualifiers.
The projected line-up of competitors slated to drop-in on Thursday’s qualifications is essentially a who’s-who of the halfpipe world, with nearly every top rider who’s still healthy at this late stage in the season on hand and looking to get that Sierra Nevada 2017 gold medal. And, with 2015 ladies’ world champion Virginie Faivre (SUI) recently retired, and 2015 men’s world champion Kyle Smaine (USA) left off the always-strong US roster this time around, the door is open for a new champion to step up in 2017.
Even without Faivre and Smaine in the mix, there are more than enough past world champions and world championship medalists in the mix to make things interesting.
On the ladies’ side, Canada’s Cassie Sharpe - silver medallist at the Kreischberg 2015 world championships - comes into Sierra Nevada fresh off her second career World Cup win, and appears to be peaking just in time to push for gold here in Spain. With a new run that includes a corked switch 720 - a trick that she alone possess in her arsenal - Sharpe may just be the one to beat on the ladies’ side.
However, she’s going to have to face down some tough competition. Sochi 2014 Olympic gold medalist Maddie Bowman (USA) will be leading the strong US team, and is coming off a third-place finish at X Games earlier this season. Two-time crystal globe winner Ayana Onozuka (JPN) finished the 2016/17 World Cup season with three podiums in four events, and her consistency typically ensures her a place in the finals and a shot at top spot.
And then there’s Marie Martinod (FRA), who just won her second halfpipe crystal globe 13 years after her first title, and who just finished the 2016/17 with three victories and a third-place finish in four events. At 32-years-old, Martinod is skiing as well as she ever has, and could be a force in Sierra Nevada.
Kenworthy and the USA set to square off against Rolland and France
Over on the men’s side, it’s shaping up to be a battle royal between the stacked US squad and a couple of standout Frenchmen, with some underdogs from a handful of other nations looking to sneak in under the radar.
The USA is fielding four exceptional halfpipe skiers in Aaron Blunck, David Wise, Gus Kenworthy, and Birk Irving. Blunck finished the World Cup season ranked third overall, following up a 2015/16 when he was finished second on the leaderboard, proving himself one of the most consistent pipe skiers in the world in the process. Wise was crowned world champion at the Voss 2013 competition, and the technical perfectionist would love to reclaim that title in 2017. Kenworthy, meanwhile, put down what many still consider to be the best halfpipe run of all-time at the Park City World Cup in 2015, and will be looking to make some noise at his first halfpipe world championships here in Spain.
However, those men will have their work cut out for themselves if they’d like to best the French tandem of Kevin Rolland and Ben Valentin, who finished the 2016/17 World Cup season ranked one and two, respectively, after a three-four finish at the final competition of the season in Tignes.
The 2016/17 crystal globe win was Rolland’s second in a row, and he and Valentin have both finished in the World Cup top-5 for four-straight seasons. Few athletes in the freeski world seem to enjoy competing as much as the French aces, and here at Sierra Nevada 2017, on the biggest stage of the year, you can expect them both to be firing on all cylinders.
Also to watch out for is the Canadian squad, with 2015 X Games champion Simon D’Artois, 2011 world champion and Sochi 2014 silver medalist Mike Riddle, and switch master Noah Bowman all capable of a win on any given day.
Halfpipe competition at the Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships gets underway on Thursday with ladies’ qualifications beginning at 17:00, followed by the men at 19:30. Finals are scheduled to take place on Saturday night, with the first fun of the three-run competition dropping in at 20:00.
(All times CET and subject to change.)
SN2017 data page (schedules & results)