Kenworthy and Onozuka top Park City halfpipe
PARK CITY, USA – With a light snow falling over the perfect Park City halfpipe, a who's-who of the best pipe skiers in the world put down some of the biggest, most technical runs seen in 2014/15 - or perhaps ever – as Gus Kenworthy (USA) and Ayana Onozuka (JPN) took the wins on the final day of competition at the Park City Grand Prix/World Cup.
Kenworthy, coming off a third-place finish in Friday's slopestyle contest, took on larger-the-life status on Saturday with a winning run that is already being hailed by many within the freeskiing community as the best halfpipe run of all time.
With four double corks – including a switch left-side double cork 1080 Japan – huge amplitude, and nearly spotless landings through all five of his hits, Kenworthy proved again that he's one of the best skiers in the world, pushing the boundaries of his sport on his way to an untouchable score of 95.6.
From the finish, Kenworthy broke down what pushed him to such an incredible performance.
"I've had a pretty good season, but X Games didn't really go my way and I feel like I've been super, super hungry since then. Air + Style went well for me last week, yesterday in slope I managed to land a run, but then I fell on my second run and in my third run I kind of played it safe because I didn't want to fall again. But that definitely made me hungry to come out here today and try and kill it.
"And yeah, that was the best pipe run I've ever done. That was my first run ever with four dubs. I don't know if anyone's ever done that."
While Kenworthy's first-hit left-side double cork 1260 safety was massive, second place finisher Kevin Rolland (FRA) actually one-upped the winner in the first hit of his final run, sending his a left double cork 1260 mute over 7 meters out of the pipe.
That first hit was the start of a gutsy effort for Rolland, as the Frenchman had crashed in both of his previous two runs and was forced into an all-or-nothing third attempt that he was able to make good on. Locking in five big, all pulled off with his signature style, Sochi silver medallist Rolland was able to score an even 93.0 that knocked Sochi's gold medal-winner David Wise (USA) into third spot.
While he didn't have the amplitude or show-stopping explosiveness of Kenworthy or Rolland, Wise was able to score a 90.40 on his second run with his typical balance of almost casual technical difficulty and perfectly stomped landings. However, after Rolland jumped into second, Wise was unable to capitalize on his final run and had to settle for third.
Honourable mention goes to top-qualifier Torin Yater-Wallace (USA), who looked like he might have a run going to contest Kenworthy's – including perhaps the biggest single halfpipe hit ever seen – before crashing on his final air and ending the day in eighth place.
For the ladies', Onozuka was simply a cut above on her way to her first victory in a major contest.
With several high profile second and third-place results to her credit – including bronze at Sochi 2014 – Onozuka has been a consistent force in the halfpipe world for several seasons. However, it wasn't until Saturday in Park City that it all came together for her, as she laid down a run that included several big spins and the most solid amplitude of any of the ladies in the final.
Second place on the day went to reigning halfpipe junior World Champion Sabrina Cakmakli (GER). A double threat who competed in Friday's slopestyle as well, Cakmakli had one of the most innovative runs of the day, including a first-hit switch air to regular that might have been the biggest performed by any of the ladies.
Janina Kuzma (NZL) rounded out the ladies' top three, putting down a couple of solid, technical runs that may have earned her higher scores were she not struggling somewhat with her amplitude.
Top qualifier Maddie Bowman (USA) did not compete in Saturday's finals after tweaking her knee skiing recreationally in the previous day.
GUS KENWORTHY WINNING RUN – left double cork 1260 safety, right 1080 tail, switch left double cork 1080 Japan, ally-oop double flat spin 900 Japan, left double cork 1080 safety
AYANA ONOZUKA WINNING RUN – left 540 mute, right 540 safety, left 720 safety, switch right 720, left 360 safety, switch right 540