Sjaastad Christiansen and Bellemare tops in Olympic slopestyle test event
Bokwang Phoenix Park, KOR - Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen (NOR) and Alex Bellemare (CAN) have claimed victory in today's penultimate slopestyle World Cup of the season which was staged at the Bokwang Phoenix Park, Korea, and served as the official Olympic test event for the upcoming PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Both skiers definitely stood out of in competition which will be remembered not only for the top level of skiing, but also for its unique course design and build by the Schneestern company - especially the twisted side-hits on either side of the final "money booter." With a perfect course, some of the best free skiers in the world on hand, and a bluebird day, all the pieces were in place for an excellent competition.
Norwegian Viking dominates women's qualifiers and finals
In the women's top-6 finals qualifiers Sjaastad Christiansen, winner of the season-opener in Cardrona (NZL) in August, lived up to the expectations that she had established with her outstanding performance at the qualifiers two days ago.
Earning a score of 91.60 on her first run, the 20-year-old from Geilo came out firing, setting the bar too high for her rivals early in the competition.
Sjaastad Christiansen threw down a switch lip on right 270 out and a right 270 to switch on the flat rails, a K-fed on the kinked rail, before tapping over the tube and going front 270 over the canon. She then stomped a switch right 900 off axis tail to right 720 tail and a left 540 mute to finish her run. As she tells it, it was a run which came to her mind just in time.
“I just had so much fun this week. The course was amazing. It's been very creative. I didn't really figure out what I was going to do before the training of the qualifiers, so I was really stressed out. But I figured it out and qualifiers went really well for me. I tried to step it up in the finals and that worked out great in my first run,” she said.
As Maggie Voisin (USA, 84.60) as well as Emma Dahlstrom (SWE, 81.00) couldn't beat her score and finished in second and third position respectively, the top-qualifier from Norway was able to enjoy a victory lap.
“I could get used to that, but I wish I would have skied better in my last run. But I'm just happy with my first run. Winning here, at the 2018 Olympic venue is pretty big for me and gives me a lot of confidence going into next year and then hopefully to the Olympics.”
The fact that it was the Olympic test event was also a reason why second ranked Maggie Voisin was all smiles in the finish area.
Voisin missed the first two World Cup stops of the season, and the 17-year-old was all smiles after earning her career's first World Cup podium today.
“Finishing second at the Olympic test event is huge," said Voisin, "I haven't gotten on the podium due to injuries for two years now. Adding that on that it's the Olympic test event, it's really huge. I'm super excited.”
However, Voisin always believed in her chance to make it into the top-3: “You kind of have to expect everything so I went in with confidence and hoped for the best. I'm super happy.”
Bellemare nails it when he has to
Men's winner Alex Bellemare, a 22-year-old skier from St-Boniface, CAN, brought home his first career World Cup victory, throwing down the run of his life right when he needed it the most. Sitting in tenth position after two runs Bellemare felt no pressure at all on his way to scoring a final-run 93.60.
“It feels great to have put down that third run. I fell in both of my first runs, and I just thought about that rail that I missed before and really got it. It feels great,” he said.
Bellemare locked in a switch left 270 on to blind 450 out on the first rail, a switch 180 safety as transfer to the wall of the high rail, a gap to right lip 270 and left 450 on straight off before going off the canon with a blind 270 out.
He then hit the three-kicker line with a right double 1260 mute to switch left double 1260 japan and a huge left double 1260 safety over the twisted side hit of the main kicker.
“I didn't feel any pressure. I made it to the finals and all the pressure was off. I was skiing for the fun and that worked out. The win definitely helps my confidence. I hope that I can keep on skiing as well as I did today.
"The course has been awesome. It was way different than all the other courses. It had jumps everywhere and all that. It's been really cool,” Bellemare said.
Thanks to his impressive show, the French Canadian edged Henrik Harlaut (SWE) by the barest of margins, going ahead just .60 above Harlaut's score of 93:00. Harlaut just snuck into the finals as the tenth best qualifier, but led the pack after two runs.
However, Harlaut didn't feel any disappointment: “It's great to finish in second position. I'm stoked. It's always tricky with qualifications like how much you have to push it to make it to the finals. I guess I just did enough to qualify. In the finals I then changed a lot of things, and I did just all things a little bit better.”
That he certainly did, and his varied and creative second-place run is proof - with a back surface to front 270, switch left cork 540 safety transfer to wall, gap to right 270, left safety alley oop over the tank, as well as a jump line of right double 1260 safety to switch left double flat 900 bow and arrow plus a left nosebutter double 1260 true tail.
New Zealand's own Josiah Wells was also right in the thick of things in the densely-packed top-3, scoring a 92.80 that left him just .20 back of Harlaut and .80 away from Bellemare's first-place score.
Seventh-ranked Mcrae Williams (USA) took over the World Cup lead with 190 points being only two points ahead of Oystein Braaten (NOR, 188).
Sjaastad Christiansen extended her lead in the women's standing to more than 80 points now, having accumulated 305 points so far in 2015/16.
The slopestyle World Cup season will come to a close when the next and final competition takes place in Silvaplana, Switzerland on March 4th and 5th, 2016.
Full results can be viewed online: