Halfpipe World Title for Xuetong Cai and Scotty James
Xuetong Cai (CHN) and Scotty James (AUS) were the victorious riders of the second snowboard medal event at the first ever combined FIS Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships at Kreischberg, Austria.
The Chinese rider dominated the ladies' halfpipe final, earning gold with a huge score of 94.25 that left Queralt Castellet (SPA, 81.25) and Clemence Grimal (FRA, 80.25) well back in second and third place, respectively.
In the men's competition the 2014 crystal globe winner from Down Under cemented his win right off the bat, locking down a first run score of 91.50 that would stand up throughout the competition, whilst Yiwei Zhang (CHN, 89.50) and Tim-Kevin Ravnjak (SLO, 89.25) took home silver and bronze.
With his win locked in before his final run, the Aussie shredder was able to soak up the moment, riding along above the wall of the right and then the left side of the pipe, slapping high fives the whole way to the finish area.
After his win, the second Australian halfpipe world champion after Nathan Johnstone (2011) said, “I always dreamt of having a victory lap, so I'm appreciating the moment I had. I felt comfortable after my first run but I was ready to bring down one more if I would have been bumped off the top spot. It's just amazing.”
And his dream-come-true was well realized. Stomping a cab 1080 double cork to frontside 1080, switch air to regular, double crippler, and a backside 900 to finish things off in his first run he didn't have to up the ante when the rain, which was pouring down during the training, started again after the second run of the ladies.
A fact silver medallist Queralt Castellet commented on, “We were all very nervous, I was very happy to be able to compete today. Even though the conditions weren't good they managed to keep the pipe in good shape. I'm so happy to be able to land that first run. Super stoked to be in second place and with how everything went.”
However, James was the one who needed some time to realise what just happened: “Last season, when they came up to me in Canada and told me that I won the crystal globe I was very surprised. Ever since I didn't change my attitude and stayed hungry for more. 'On top of the world,' sounds pretty cool.”
“On top of the world”, a phrase which also suited Xuetong Cai's riding who nailed it in her second run with a backside 540 to frontside 900, backside air, back-to-back 720s and a super stylish air to fakie.
Her win matched the performance of countrywoman Jiayu Liu in 2009, however, Cai's performance could mean ever more, as Beijing seeks to win the bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
“It feels great,” said Cai, “For me and for my country this is the best. Snowboarding in China just started a few years ago, it's just beginning, so this is very important for us. We're pushing for the 2022 Olympic Games, so hopefully this can help us with our bid.”
But until it's time to decide who will host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the next snowboard medal event at the Kreischberg World Championships is on the programme next Wednesday when the slopestyle specialists take over centre stage again.