US domination at LAAX OPEN halfpipe event
U.S. Snowboarding's riders have dominated the halfpipe finals of the LAAX OPEN which have been part of the snowboard freestyle World Cup tour for the first time in history.
While nine of 18 spots in the finals were taken by US athletes, Chloe Kim (USA) and Chase Josey (USA) stood out taking home the win from Europe's most prestigious snowboard event.
Last year's winner Arielle Gold (USA; 86.50) and Xuetong Cai (CHN, 85.25) finished as respective second and third in the women's event while 2015 world champion Scotty James (AUS; 96.50) and 2014 Olympic champion Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI; 91.75) rounded out the men's podium as second and third, respectively.
Facing perfect conditions in the biggest superpipe on earth snowboard sensation Chloe Kim earned a 90.50 to celebrate a back-to-back World Cup win and her career's third in four starts.
The women's halfpipe podium at the LAAX OPEN World Cup
And by being untouchable in today's event landing a method to frontside 1080 tail, cab 540 stalefish, switch backside 540 mute and a cab 720 stalefish to finish things off the teenage halfpipe wonder rang in a new era in women's halfpipe riding: the age of Kim.
“I'm so stoked that I was able to put down some good runs today. I couldn't be any happier,” the two-time gold medallist of the 2016 Youth Olympic Winter Games said.
“I was really excited about my victory lap but obviously I wanted to do better than in my second run but unfortunately I fell on the 1080. But you know, I'm just trying to beat myself in every possible way.”
With the triumph at the top-dollar international contest in her bag today, the first person to win three X Games golds under the age of 16 is only missing a win at one major event: the Olympic Winter Games.
However, there are still some more riders who also have the skill-set to make it hard for the uber-talented rider with Korean roots – including today's finalists who introduced the next level of women's halfpipe progression.
Four of them – Kim herself, fourth ranked Kelly Clark as well as Jiayu Liu (CHN) and Queralt Castellet (ESP) – landed 1080's as it would be nothing.
Caliber of runs tight at the top
And while the women's final field made the iconic event at Crap Sogn Gion a vintage competition to remember, the boys did so as well by going big and clean as it could be.
The LAAX OPEN 2017 finals were definitely one of the best ones in the event's history.
The boys killed it in an epic battle in the world's biggest superpipe
Especially thanks to the top-3 male riders with Chase Josey scratching at the perfect score of 100.00 with a total of five doubles in a row, two of them being switch to switch.
The 21-year-old regular rider threw down a double michalchuk to frontside double cork 1080 stalefish, switch double crippler indy, switch double michalchuck melon and a cab double cork 1080 mute in his final run being given a 97.75.
“Winner of the LAAX OPEN 2017 sounds pretty special. It's so cool. I dreamed of it, I'm so stoked,” stated Josey who also gave an insight on his comp tactic in run three: “
My third run was just full throttle. I just went for it. I gave it everything I had, and I was fortunate to land it. It worked out for me today.”
The third ranked rider of the Word Cup opener in Copper Mountain staged last December therefore edged off so far leading 2015 world champion Scotty James from the hot seat to the second rank (96.50).
In the two runs before, the rider from down under had re-defined the level of amplitude in his second run going huge over the whole course of his run, starting with a steezy method to frontside double cork 1080 stalefish, cab double cork 1080 mute, frontside 900 lien and wrapping things up with a backside double cork 1260 mute.
However, the tallest guy in the field was still pleased with today's outcome – although the precious win just slipped through his hands at the very last moment:
“I'm really happy with the second rank. It was an amazing competition to be part of. I love coming to Laax.
It was tough, I knew that someone could answer my run. I tried to up it again in my last run but I unfortunately crashed on my last hit. But I'm stoked to be part of the podium.”
Talking about the podium – the top three were rounded out by reigning Olympic champion Iouri Podladtchikov.
The best qualifier and last to drop in tried to best his rival scores in the final run of a sensational week in Laax which also featured the 2016-17 second slopestyle World Cup.
The Russian-born Swiss athlete who underwent almost 100 percent of the team's season preparation for the first time ever landed a method to frontside 900 tail, backside 900 nose, frontside double cork 1080 truck driver, cab double cork 1080 and an alley oop double rodeo nose – the trick he recently had put on his to do list for contest runs – but couldn't top his competitors with a 91.25.
Thanks to today's win Chase Josey also took over the World Cup lead while Chloe Kim is still sitting atop of the women's standings having won both halfpipe World Cup competitions so far.
The snowboard freestyle World Cup tour continues in Italy next week where Seiser Alm will host its first ever World Cup event with a slopestyle competition slated to take place from January 25 to 27.
Full results of this season's second halfpipe World Cup staged at the LAAX OPEN (SUI) today can be viewed online.