Blouin and Smits win slopestyle Gold at world champs
Laurie Blouin (CAN) and Seppe Smits (BEL) have claimed the first snowboard titles of the Sierra Nevada 2017 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships coming out successful of the slopestyle finals this afternoon.
However, a blue bird sky and warm temperatures made it hard for the best eight women and 16 men of Thursday's qualifiers to land their runs as they were struggling with the challenging course conditions.
With landing a clean run on the soft and slushy surface being the key to success, the Canadian as well as Belgium rider finally put things together in the second run of the two runs best one count finals to walk away with the precious titles.
Blouin scored a 78.00 to earn her career's first gold in what might have been the closest finish of a slopestyle final in the recent years.
The 2013 junior world champion, who was sitting in fifth position after run one, got technical going for the title throwing down a switch backside 180 indy to frontside 540 indy, a cab double cork 900 mute and a backside 360 melon on the four-jump line before finishing things off with a backside air and a 50-50 frontside 180 out in the jibbing section.
The 20-year-old therefore edged off teenage slopestyle sensation Zoi Sadowski Synnott (NZL, 77.50) and dethroned champion Miyabi Onitsuka (JPN, 77,40) to the respective second and third rank.
“I'm pretty happy. It's been just an incredible week here. The weather has been on our side. It's super fun, I'm happy.
I didn't expect it. You don't want to be too sure of yourself. But I worked so hard, and that just proofed me that the work that I did was worth it,” Blouin said following her walk through the mixed zone.
But the French Canadian couldn't explain what made the difference to edge of her rival from down under from the top spot with a tiny advantage of only 0.5: “I can't tell. I'm bad in judging.”
However, runner-up Sadowski Synnott was also pleased with the result as making it to the finals had already been a huge success for the Kiwi who had traveled to Spain with the first full World Cup season under her belt.
“I'm just stoked to put down a run. I was happy to get into finals, because it was top-8 already. Yeah, 0.5 are missing to the title but I'm just so happy to be on the podium,” the youngest rider in the women's competition who had just turned 16 last week stated after a switch backside 540 indy to frontside 360 tuck knee, backside 360 indy, double wildcat indy, frontside 180 to cab 180 and ollie to 50-50 frontside 180 out had secured her the Silver, having scored only 0.10 more than 2015 world champion Onitsuka.
Over in the men's event, Seppe Smits once again delivered a perfect proof of being one of the strongest contest machines out there.
Competing under the watchful eyes of King Felipe VI. Smits repeated his 2011 win he had also claimed on Spanish soil (La Molina) with a score of 91.40 relegating Nicolas Huber (SUI; 83.25) and Chris Corning (USA; 82.50) to the respective second and third rank.
After a failure at the first rail had cost him a good score in run one, the first ever FIS slopestyle world champion capitalised on his experience and focused on what he had to do – and just did it:
A backside double cork 1080 nose to frontside 900 mute (on side hit of the second kicker), a switch backside double cork 1080 mute, cab 1260 stalefish, backside 450 off and a switch ollie to half 50-50 to backside 360 off to finish things off might not have been the most difficult run of the men's finals, but truly one with huge amplitude and superb execution – something judges always look out for.
But Smits wouldn't be Smits if he wouldn't have known: “It's crazy. I didn't expect it. I was trying to put a clean run together. It probably wasn't the hardest run we have seen today but I managed to bring it down pretty clean after I was struggling a bit in my first run on the first rail. When I got this one in my second one I was like 'OK. Get it now!'”
And everyone could see in the finish area – although some hundred metres away from the last feature, a rail section built after the theme of an Andalusian village – how a huge pressure was literally falling off his shoulders.
The 25-year-old who also has three big air world champs medals to his belt already clenched his fists and took a deep breath as he instantly understood that his run could earn him a medal despite the fact that he wasn't in the best physical conditions:
“I had a pretty nasty slam this morning. So I have been riding pretty soar all day, and then to land that run was just such a relief. It was crazy.”
In the end, it was the rider from the flat lands of Belgium taking his second world championships title while another rider came from hero to zero.
Nicolas Huber, a former park shaper in Corvatsch, had just sneaked into the Swiss team for the world championships although he wasn't part of the national team before.
Switzerland's Head Coach Pepe Ragazzi explained: “We wanted to bring the best Swiss riders, not the best four from the national team. So we did a qualifier in Laax, and he made the team. And he sure will make the national team now.”
Nevertheless, being a blank paper before entering his first ever world championships with only one World Cup start under his belt dating back to January at the LAAX OPEN, Huber was probably most surprised of his performance.
After leading the men's finals after run one thanks to a double cork 900 rodeo melon to cab 900 mute, frontside 1080 tail, backside triple cork 1440 melon, frontside 180 up to cab 360 and an ollie to frontside 50-50 to frontside 360 out, he didn't know where he was ranked before dropping in for his second run.
Actually, the 22-year-old goofy rider was thinking that the other boys would have definitely kicked him out of the top-3. But when he arrived in front of the sponsor wall in the finish he noticed his score and a beaming smile as well as pure joy took over control of him:
“It's unbelievable. I still can't believe what just happened. When I came down after my second run, I was still in first and I was thinking 'Man, there has to be a mistake on the screen'. I'm super happy that I made it on the podium.”
Chris Corning, the only one of the finals to land back-to-back 1440's rounded out the podium as third, being also happy about his performance after he had struggled not only with the soft conditions today but also with several injuries this season:
“It was hard to work through as it was pretty soft. But I'm happy. After all my injuries I had to battle through this season, it feels pretty awesome to bring home a medal. Glad to win some money because it cost a lot of money to come here.”
The 12th FIS Snowboard World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain continue tonight with the halfpipe finals starting at 8 PM CET which are broadcasted live in several countries. Click here for an update on the TV times.