Castellet and White triumph in wild Aspen Snowmass Halfpipe World Cup
Queralt Castellet (ESP) and Shaun White (USA) have won the 2017-18 season's third Halfpipe World Cup which was staged in Aspen Snowmass, USA today and served as penultimate international qualifier event for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.
And as it also was the third of four events counting as national qualifier for the hosting nation, US riders were ready to put the hammer down and battle for those four Olympic team spots.
As a result, four women and seven men of the US roster had made it to the finals but also had to face some strong international competition. And with the pipe perfectly shaped and Mother Nature also being a halfpipe fan everything was set for a big show – and riders didn't let down.
Although the most did struggle a bit in the first two runs of three-run best one count final to put one down, everything climaxed in the very end following a story line which could make for a good old Hollywood movie.
With the halfpipe ladies being the first to drop in it was Queralt Castellet, the only European in the finals, shocking their competitors from Japan and USA by claiming her career's third.
Five out of eight female finalists had a 1080 in their run but it was the 29-year-old goofy rider from Spain earning the top score of 91.50 for her method to frontside 900, backside 540, frontside 1080 and a final cab 720.
It was a performance which finally ended a long waiting streak as the Spanish halfpipe lop's last World Cup win dated back to November 2011 (Saas-Fee, Switzerland).
“I'm beyond happy. It's been a roller coaster for me over the past couple of years. But I worked a lot and kept pushing it to gain happiness again and be the snowboarder I am today,” she said.
Chloe Kim (USA), the so far unbeaten World Cup leader who had triumphed in the season's first two World Cups took second with a 88.75 for her safety run – a fact which just outlined the strength of this 17-years-old halfpipe sensation as she explained:
“I'm actually so happy for Queralt. Since I already made the Olympic team I didn't really feel the need to just go out full force. So I just put down the run which is OK. Pretty happy with the way it turned out as I was really struggling with this halfpipe.”
Her teammate Maddie Mastro (USA; 88.75), rounded out the podium as third therefore looking good to make the hosting nation's Olympic team.
White meets the expectations
The men's final was one of the best in the last years with each of the top four stepping up their game with a jaw-dropping show down performance in the last run.
Two-time Olympic Champion and best qualifier White was awarded with a score of 100 (!) for his clean run which consisted of a frontside 1440 to cab double 1080, frontside 540, tomahawk and a frontside double 1260, a trick he had worked on to clean it up over the last couple of weeks.
When the US superstar saw his second ever so-called perfect score, he went crazy in the finish area as the win finally confirmed his team spot for PyeongChang and therefore his career's fourth Olympics.
“Getting to the bottom and getting that perfect score was just nuts. I'm really proud of myself, it was a long way to get here. Now it feels like I'm on the right path to the Olympics.
It's great. It's been all about making the Olympic team and having had a poor finish at the Dew Tour put a lot of pressure on me for the win at this event. And that was my goal, to win this thing,” he said.
But after missing to land his first with the G-force spinning him out in the first run and low lights at the last hit of his second attempt making him landing in the flat White had to deliver when it mattered:
“Everyone started to putting their runs down at the very end. Of course I wanted to have that first runs in to have the comfort of knowing I was gonna podium and potentially lock my spot of for the Olympics. Standing there seeing people landing heavy runs, and it's third run, it was go time.”
The 31-year-old edged off Scotty James (AUS; 96.25) to the second rank after the two-time World Champion had landed back-to-back 1260s to frontside 540, backside 360 and a switch backside 1260 only minutes before.
While some would consider James run as one of the most technical halfpipe runs ever, the 23-year-old had found his inner peace again an dovercome the first moments of disappointment following the judges's decision.
“It was funny as everyone was kind of struggling to put one run down and then the tables turned pretty quick in the end. I think snowboarding is in a really good place right now. I feel good but I would have obviously loved to have won, but it is what it is. I'm grateful to have put one down,” he said.
Yuto Totsuka (JPN; 94.50) stomped a run full of spin craziness including a final frontside double 1440 to take third, only 0.50 points ahead of Jake Pates (USA; 94.00) who therefore grabbed a personal spot for PyeongChang with fifth ranked Ben Ferguson (USA; 85.25) also snagging one to represent his country in South Korea next February.
The FIS Snowboard Freestyle World Cup tour continues next week with the LAAX Open taking place from January 17 to 20, 2018, therefore being the final chance for riders to earn points in the official international qualifier process for PyeongChang 2018.
Queralt Castellet: method, frontside 900, backside 540, frontside 1080, cab 720
Shaun White: frontside 1440, cab double 1080, frontside 540, tomahawk, frontside double 1260
Chloe Kim: method, frontside 1080, cab 720, frontside 540, mc twist
Scotty James: frontside 1260, backside 1260, frontside 540, backside 360, switch backside 1260
Maddie Mastro: frontside 900, backside 540, frontside 720, haakon flip, crippler, method
Yuto Totsuka: frontside 1080, cab 1080, front double 1260, backside 900, front double 1440