Park City (USA) - A perfect day of weather and a perfect halfpipe at the Utah 2019 FIS Snowboard, Freestyle & Freeski World Championships allowed for a perfect day of competition at Park City on Friday, where the USA’s own Chloe Kim, with her first world championships title, and Scotty James of Australia, who claimed an unprecedented third-straight title, won the gold medals.
Various forms of challenging weather have plagued the Utah 2019 world championships over the past week, but finally on Friday all of that was forgotten as blue skies and mellow winds greeted the best riders in the world on the biggest competition day of the season.
18-year-old Kim has established herself as the most dominant halfpipe rider in the world over the past 12 months, having won the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, the Dew Tour at Breckenridge, and the X Games in Aspen all in the lead-up to the Utah 2019 world championships. On Friday she was able to complete the (unofficial) grand slam of snowboarding, laying down an impeccable first run for a score of 93.50 that would hold up through the rest of the competition to give her world champs gold.
Starting things off with a massive indy on the backside wall, Kim went on to stomp a frontside 1080, a cab 900, a backside 360, and finally finished off what would be the best run of the day with a textbook McTwist. However, she could have significantly upped that score if she had put down her final run, in which she attempted the frontside double corked 1080 that only she can do, and which has never been landed in competition.
“I was really nervous,” said Kim after that inspired attempt, “Today was actually the first decent day we’ve had, so it was kinda crazy getting all my tricks back in this halfpipe. I landed my first run and I was stoked, and then my second run was kind of a set-up run to try the double. I really wish I was able to put (the double) down, but hopefully the next contest I can do it. But I’m super stoked to take home the win here at world championships. I love it here in Park City, and I’m proud of all the ladies’ riding today.”
Second place with a score of 84.00 went to China’s Cai Xuetong, who came into competition as the two-time reigning world champion but still left Utah 2019 elated at winning the silver medal behind her friend and competitor Kim.
“I think everybody knows Chloe is the boss,” laughed Cai at the press conference, “So I’m just so happy I got second today.”
Saving her best run for last on the day to secure the bronze medal was Kim’s US teammate Maddie Mastro, who put down a score of 82.00 to bump Queralt Castellet of Spain into fourth place.
After putting up a first run score of 94.25 Scotty James was sitting in the lead heading into his final run on Friday in Park City. However, he was also sitting in the somewhat unfamiliar position of not being the top qualifier, meaning that two other highly skilled riders - Yuto Totsuka of Japan Switzerland’s Pat Burgener - would be dropping in behind him with the potential to knock him out of top spot.
So, James simply did what any great champion would do, which was step his game up to a simply untouchable level, ensuring himself of the victory and accomplishing something that no other men’s snowboarder has ever done by winning three world championships titles in a row.
Starting things off with a switch backside double cork 1080 - perhaps the most difficult trick in halfpipe snowboarding right now - James proceeded to land a backside 1260, a frontside 1080 nosegrab, a massive cab 1080, and finally a physics-defying frontside double cork 1260 on the last hit to earn a score of 97.50 from the judges that would prove to be out of reach for the final two riders of the day.
“I had two very, very fierce competitors behind me, and I knew they would be coming down and throw some good runs,” said James about his boundary pushing final run, “But for me also, I knew I could clean up my run a bit. I was happy with my first run, but my plan was to do it better, and I executed it. To win, I’m just over the moon about it. I haven’t really had time to think about it yet. I was pinching myself when I won my second world championships and I’m pinching myself again now that I’ve got three. I got to go out there and do wanted to do and I’m proud of that.”
Second place went to Totsuka, as the 17-year-old wowed the crowd all day with his incredible amplitude and inventive tricks, walking the razor’s edge between disaster and glory on a second run that earned him a score of 92.50 for the silver medal.
And finally the bronze went to Burgener for the second-straight world championships, as the Swiss rider was also able to put down a stand-out second run to finish just a point behind Totsuka with a score of 91.50.