Clark and Zhang dominate halfpipe World Cup event at Park City
Facing slight snow falls and sunny parts, the most successful female snowboarder of all times and the rising star from the far east dominated the three runs, best one counts finals of the top 10 men and best 6 women in a perfectly shaped superpipe.
Clark raised the bar right away in her first run coming back from a pretty tough fall during the practice before.
“Today was a really big day for me. I took a pretty hard slam in practice. So coming back landing my first run like this is always a great achievement. Not only to put a run down but to be happy with it,” the top qualifier said
13 years after winning gold at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games at the same venue, the 32 year-old put down a frontside air to backside 540, frontside 1080, cab 720, frontside inverted 540 and a backside air earning the high score of 94.50.
“I heard them announcing that [Olympics]. I have great memories from this place. I'm kind of honoured when I step back and look at it but I'm still able to do well in this sport. I love this sport.”
Her teammate Arielle Gold took second (88.75) while reigning world champion Xuetong Cai (CHN, 80.75) finished in third position.
“It went really well. I was happy with the way I was riding and the way the rest of the girls were riding. So overall it was a really good contest,” explained Gold who, however, tried to attack the score of Clark in her last two runs.
“I was trying to go a bit bigger in my second and third run and also tried to put a cab 900 in there but it just didn't end up working out. I think I definitely need to work on going that big a little bit more. But I'm happy that I put down a run that I'm comfortable with.”
Zhang impresses judges and fans
In the men's competition, Yiwei Zhang celebrated his first major event win with 98.00 out of 100 bringing down a stunning second run consisting of a method to frontside double cork 1080, cab double cork 1080, frontside double cork 1260 and a backside 900 to finish things off.
It was a run whose frontside double 1260 not only reminded everyone of the yolo flip but also put a big smile on the 23-year-olds face.
“I'm really happy about my first major win. I tried to learn Iouri's [Podladtchikov] yolo flip but the double 1260 suits me better”, he stated.
The Kreischberg silver medallist edged off top qualifier Taylor Gold (USA), who was leading after run one with 94.75 for his technical performance (method, frontside 1260 tail, double michalchuck nose, japan air to fakie, cab 1080 roast beef, frontside double cork 1080 chicken salad), to the second rank.
“It's awesome to get second today. I mean Yiwei [Zhang] totally deserved it. That was one of the biggest runs I have ever seen. At the top I was like 'I'm gonna do everything I can do'. I definitely wasn't holding anything back though,” Gold honoured his rival from China.
The older brother of Arielle, the last one to drop in each run, tried to change his run at the end going for a cab 1260 roast beef to bump Zhang of the top spot but couldn't hold it together.
“Both times I thought I was going to land it but it didn't worked out.”
But his tries and the battle for third which emerged in run three were the best proof of the progression and the joy the riders had in the pipe.
After Jan Scherrer (SUI) had been sitting on the bubble since run one with 85.00, it was Matt Ladley (USA, 85.75) who took over third rank just before Australia's Kent Callister finally rounded out the podium as third (88.50) celebrating his first ever World Cup podium finish.
“I'm really excited. I was able to put it down on my last run. And it really came down to that last hit because the run before I fell on it,” the young Aussie said before drawing a line under an incredible event at I ride Par City.
“The level of riding was ridiculous. Yiwei [Zhang] had one of the highest airs I have ever seen, and Taylor [Gold] was going super big and technical. It was a really good contest, and I'm stoked to be on the podium.”
The FIS Snowboard Freestyle World Cup tour continues with its final event in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech on March 14th. The last stop of the Snowboard Freestyle World Cup tour features a slopestyle event.