Defending champions keep hold to their titles
Xuetong Cai (CHN) and Scotty James (AUS) have successfully defended their halfpipe world championships title at the Sierra Nevada 2017 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships under the lights in the early Spanish night.
And it was a night to remember as the top 6 women and 10 men of Friday's qualifiers not only pulled of a great show but also as things wrapped up with a historic result, too. For the first time ever, both defending champions were able to repeat their titles earned two years ago.
In fact, Scotty James became the first male rider ever to pull off this feat. And the 22-year-old from down under had to fight hard for it as he had to face some fierce competition.
However, James who had descended on Andalusia with a huge confidence boost having won the Olympic test event in South Korea a few weeks ago as well as the halfpipe World Cup title, had paved his road to a title defence in his first run scoring a massive 95.75.
But being the last to drop in in each run, he witnessed that his rivals were giving in everything they had to bump him off the top spot. As a result, James fired one off in his second run adding even more amplitude to his clean and well-executed frontside 900 to backside 1260, frontside double cork 1080 and cab double cork 1080.
A smart move as fans and judges alike were wowed, and James given a 97.50 which secured him his career's second in style ahead of Olympic champion Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI; 93.25) and Pat Burgener (SUI; 90.50).
“I did it again, I'm super stoked. It's been such an awesome event here, such different conditions for us to ride, and I think all of us have been really liking it. I came out with a plan just to work really hard this week and finish off well, and I'm very happy to come home with the Gold,” he recapped his week in Spain.
As if there wouldn't have been enough reps already, the dominating rider of the season also had the time to repeat his victory lap of 2015 when he stopped his run by sliding down on the coping and high-fiving with the fans along the pipe.
“You know, it's one of those things you always think about but you don't know what you do when the time comes.
And I remembered my victory lap from Kreischberg, and I appreciate the fans coming out here and watching us and getting pretty cold. So, I do whatever I can do to say thank you to all this people who come out to watch.”
However, there was one rider who almost would have ruined this moment almost every athlete is dreaming off: Iouri Podladtchikov.
The world champion of 2013 had also set his claim for another Gold trying to improve his score when he needed it the most.
But after nailing a massive mc twist 1260 to back-to-back double cork 1080s the Swiss superstar couldn't land his alley oop double rodeo whilst also suffering a slight knee injury.
“My right knee hurts a little bit, but I think it's middle bad. It could cost me a few weeks though. I think it would have been enough to beat Scotty [James]. I was on course, but I was getting excited about it too early.
So, I'm thinking 'Mhhhhh!' But you know what, you must not be unhappy about Silver,” iPod stated following the official medal ceremony which was staged right in the finish zone.
Over in the women's event, Cai tied on to where she had wrapped up things in the qualifiers yesterday: dominating the competition.
The Chinese ripper started her run off with a huge air to fakie before nailing a cab 720, back-to-back 540's and a sweet frontside 720 to finish things off claiming the precious Gold with a score of 90.75.
“I'm so excited,” she said. “There are no other words. I'm just so happy. I had one run in mind, and I put it down. That was the goal for the day.”
A goal which made her the second ever woman to repeat a halfpipe world championships title since Doriane Vidal (FRA) who had prevailed back in 2001, 2003 and 2005.
Haruna Matsumoto (JPN; 84.75) and 2015 bronze medallist Clemence Grimal (FRA; 79.00) rounded out the podium as respective second and third.
The 12th FIS Snowboard World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain continue tomorrow with the snowboard cross finals starting at 12 PM CET. Several TV stations will broadcast the knock out rounds staged in heats of 6 live. Click here for an update on the TV times.