Ladies' halfpipe World Cup season preview
With the Winter Games NZ (and the World Cup competitions that were included in the Winter Games program) already staged in August, many halfpipe and slopestyle athletes on the FIS Freestyle tour already have one major competition under their belts. However, with three big-time events still on deck for 2015/16, there's lots more action to come.
Halfpipe stops in Park City and Mammoth Mountain, USA (in conjunction with the Visa US Freeskiing Grand Prix), and the World Cup finals in Tignes, France (in conjunction with the SFR Freestyle Tour), will see the best skiers in the world on hand to send it in some of the world's best halfpipes. While their might be “only” three halfpipe events left in the World Cup season, each one is a monster, and each one promises to be a season standout.
1 – Ayana Onozuka (JPN – 240)
2 – Janina Kuzma (NZL – 200)
3 – Devin Logan (USA – 175)
(Full list HERE)
Kreishberg 2015 Freestyle World Ski Championships
Gold – Virginie Faivre (SUI)
Silver – Cassie Sharpe (CAN)
Bronze – Mirjam Jaeger (SUI)
Ayana Onozuka (JPN) continued her consistent, technical ways last season, taking three podiums in three World Cup events, including a win in late February at the Park City World Cup/Visa Grand Prix against a strong field.
While Onozuka has eight World Cup podiums in 14 starts, the Park City victory was the first of her career, showing that Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games bronze medalist continues to improve even as she moves into her late 20's.
With a good bag of tricks, solid amplitude, and a penchant for almost never falling in her runs, Onozuka is a threat in every competition, and she has started 2015/16 off well with with a third-place performance in Cardrona.
The winner in Cardrona was all-around Devin Logan (USA), who had an exceptional week in New Zealand to start the season as she also took fourth place in the slopestyle competition. Logan has long been a double threat on the World Cup circuit, and her 2013/14 season – in which she took the crystal globe for halfpipe and the silver medal in the Sochi 2014 slopestyle competition – is testament to that. The possibility of her vying for both halfpipe and slopestyle top honours on the World Cup this season is a very real one.
Second at Cardrona went to Janina Kuzma (NZL) – the ranking she also finished in on the World Cup leaderboard last season. While at 30 years old Kuzma is one of the older competitors on tour, consistently solid results over the last few seasons (she hasn't been outside of the top-10 in any competition since finishing fifth at Sochi 2014) suggest she might even be on an upward trend, despite the youth movement that typically is halfpipe skiing.
However, there is pressure from below on the top athletes. Cassie Sharpe (CAN) announced herself in a big way last season, taking silver at the Kreischberg 2015 Freestyle World Ski Championships and then finishing the season with her first World Cup win at the season finals in Tignes.
With her incredible amplitude, ever-evolving bag of tricks, and continually growing confidence, Sharpe has emerged as one of the most exciting new talents on tour.
Others to watch out for this season include a resurgent Brita Sigourney (USA), the always dangerous Sochi 2014 gold medalist Maddie Bowman, and young ripper Sabrina Cakmakli (GER).
One wildcard for 2015/16 is Kreischberg 2015 gold medalist Virginie Faivre (SUI). Faivre has rarely competed since her tough fourth-place finish in Sochi in 2014, and at 33 years old is likely winding down her incredible career. However, as she showed at Kreischberg on her way to her third career world championships title, she's still got what it takes to climb to the top of the podium, if she so feels like it.
While Cardrona is already in the history books and Devin Logan is off to an early lead in the World Cup standings, we've still got some time to wait before things get going again at what should be a massive competition at Mammoth Mountain, USA, in January. With halfpipe, slopestyle, and snowboard competitions all lined up for one stacked event, it should be a fun weekend at one of the most well-respected freestyle resorts in the world. Until then...