The world’s best freeskiers were in action last week at Cardrona Alpine Resort for the first FIS World Cup slopestyle competitions of the 2017/18 season at the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ. James Woods (GBR) claimed the win in the men’s field and Kelly Sildaru (EST) topped the ladies’ field.
With World Cup points and Olympic qualifying points up for grabs, the 16 male and eight female competitors came ready to give their best, and nothing short of perfection was enough to earn a place on the podium with the talent-filled field.
Competitors were challenged by the flat light and only two of the male competitors landed both of their runs: Woods in the gold medal position and Fabian Boesch (SUI), who would finish with a bronze medal.
As defending Winter Games NZ slopestyle champion Woods pushed hard on his first run and landed his winning run on his first attempt. A solid rail section and perfectly executed jump line impressed the judges and they responded with a score of 91.80.
One of the top qualifiers and last man to drop into the course, Andri Ragettli (SUI) landed his first run but his score of 73.80 left him with work still to do. If he was feeling the pressure, it only worked in his favour and the Swiss rider decided to put it all on the line with a huge triple cork 1440 – one of the only triples seen in this competition – on the very last jump. His score of 91.00 earned him second place.
“It’s a real honour just to be competing in this field,” said Woods. “Watching the best in the world go ahead of me was really nerve wracking. Andri was the last person to go and he’s just amazing so I just knew I had to be perfect.”
Fabian Boesch (SUI) had his work cut out for him to hold on to the podium place, but a well-executed second run saw him lift his score from an 85.00 on run one to a 90.00.
15-year-old Kelly Sildaru took the pressure of competing in her very first World Cup in her stride and landed a score of 90.00 on her first run thanks to the difficulty of her tricks.
Sitting in fourth place after run one, Switzerland’s Guilia Tanno also responded well to the pressure to finish on the podium, upping her score to 86.60 for second place.
Sweden’s Jennie-Lee Burmansson – another 15-year-old competing in her first World Cup – caught the judges’ attention in the qualifying rounds with her stylish runs. Cleaning up her trick execution in the finals she finished in third position.
The Freeski action at 2017 Winter Games NZ in Cardrona continues next week with the season's first halfpipe World Cup competitions. The qualifications will begin on 31st August.