The 2022/23 FIS Snowboard halfpipe World Cup season came to a close on Friday night at the Calgary Snow Rodeo in Canada, where Mitsuki Ono and Ruka Hirano closed out a big season for the Japanese team by each respectively taking their third straight victory on their way to each earning their first career crystal globes as the season’s top riders.
While some blustery winds delayed the start of halfpipe finals at the Snow Rodeo by 30 minutes, those winds died down throughout the competition, resulting in some heavier runs as we moved through the second and third runs of the competition.
OH YES FOR ONO AS 18-YEAR-OLD CLAIMS THE WIN AND THE GLOBE
After a third place finish to open the halfpipe season in Copper Mountain (USA), followed up by back-to-back wins in Laax (SUI) and Mammoth Mountain (USA), it was a foregone conclusion that the 20-year-old Ono would walk away from the season as the crystal globe winner even before competition in Calgary
However, on Friday not at Winsport Canada Olympic Park Ono put an exclamation mark on her season, with an exceptional, 89.75 point-scoring performance giving her a third-straight victory and an emphatic crystal globe win that was the first for a Japanese woman since Melo Imai’s World Cup title from the 2004/05 season.
Opening her winning run up with a big indy grab, before going into a frontside 900 tail grab, then a backside 540 melon, a frontside 720 stalefish and finally a cab 720 weddle, Ono was near-flawless from top-to-bottom of the pipe.
“I’m so happy to win and get the crystal globe,” Ono said from the finish area, “Calgary is one of my favourite places, because I got my first World Cup podium here three years ago. I still can’t believe this though. I’m so happy. Thank to everyone for supporting me, I really appreciate it."
Second place on the day - and second place on the final halfpipe World Cup rankings - went to Canada’s own Elizabeth Hosking with a score of 86.00. With some of the biggest and most stylish tricks in the women’s field, Hosking was just a couple of small bobbles away from possibly stealing top spot on the evening from Ono. Hosking seems destined for her first career international win very soon, but on Friday she would instead have to settle for her second career World Cup podium and her first on home soil.
Third place on the night for the women was Switzerland’s Berenice Wicki, as the 20-year-old earned the first World Cup podium of her career with a 72.50-scoring first run. While Ono and Hosking were in a league of their own on Friday night, Wicki’s solid riding despite the wind in the first run gave her a deserved first international competition top-3.
Ono finished the season with 360 halfpipe World Cup points, while Hosking would end up with 237. Finishing in third on the women’s halfpipe season standings with 179 points was the USA’s Maddie Mastro - the first time the 23-year-old has finished the season in the top-3. Unfortunately, Mastro took a heavy slam in qualifications on Thursday and wasn’t on hand for finals in Calgary. We wish her the best in her recovery.
HIRANO FINALLY RISES TO TOP WITH FIRST GLOBE VICTORY
Over on the men’s side of things a little bit of the season-ending drama was taken out of proceedings when Scotty James (AUS) was forced to withdraw from competition on qualification day due to illness.
With James out of the crystal globe equation, all Ruka Hirano had to do was finish fourth place or better to ensure the globe win, and he did all that and more, matching his teammate Ono by blasting his way to a third straight World Cup victory in impressive fashion.
Already in the lead after his first run, Hirano kicked things up a notch in run three, opening with a switch backside 1080 weddle, mirroring that with a backside 1080 weddle, then a massive frontside 1440 indy, into a cab double 1080 stalefish, and then frontside double 1260 indy to finish things off with a score of 88.50 and his fifth career World Cup win.
“I’m so stoked,” Hirano said through a translator once the awards ceremony was finished, “I’ve been aiming to get this globe for a long time. Last year Ayumu (Hirano) won it, and before that Yuto (Totsuka) won it a few times, and I was always finishing second or third. Finally now I’ve won it and I’m super stoked about.
“I’ve had some luck here in Calgary. This was where I beat Scotty James to win my first World Cup, so I feel very confident and satisfied here at this competition.”
Friday’s final result marked the first time in World Cup history that Japanese riders swept both the men’s and women’s crystal globes in the same season.
Earning a score of 82.00 for second place and his second career halfpipe World Cup podium - just one week after he earned his first at Mammoth Mountain - was 17-year-old Australian phenom Valentino Guseli, whose already legendary season just continues to get more epic. Already the big air crystal globe winner and the first snowboarder in World Cup history to earn podiums in big air, slopestyle and halfpipe in a single season, Guseli continues to rack up the accolades.
With his runner-up finish on Friday, Guseli leapfrogged his countryman James to finish in second on the final halfpipe World Cup rankings, with 246 points to Hirano’s 314. James would finish in third with 180.
Finally, third place on the evening went to Hirano’s Japanese teammate Shuichiro Shigeno, as the 17-year-old earned his first career World Cup podium with a gutsy third run. Shigeno looks like he might be the next Japanese halfpipe great in the very near future, and his Calgary podium on Friday night likely to be the first of many.
The conclusion of halfpipe action in Calgary means we have just one final date to look forward to for FIS Snowboard halfpipe competition this season, as we turn our attention to the Bakuriani 2022/23 FIS Freestyle, Snowboard and Freeski World Championships with pipe finals will be taking place on 03 March, 2023.