Park CIty (USA) - The weather threw one last wrench into the gears of the Utah 2019 FIS Snowboard, Freestyle & Freeski World Championships on Sunday, with heavy winds and an incoming winter storm forcing the cancellation of slopestyle finals and the awarding of the gold medals to Zoi Sadowski Synnott (NZL) and Chris Corning (USA) for topping the respective ladies’ and men’s fields in Saturday’s qualifications.
As per the international competition rules, qualification scores can stand as the official result if the is a force majeure situation where the finals can not be run, and that rule was invoked on Sunday when it became clear that it would be impossible to run a safe final round for the top eight ladies’ and 10 men of the Utah 2019 slopestyle competition.
With the decision, Sadowski Synnott would earn the first-ever world championships gold medal for an athlete from New Zealand with a score of 91.75, capping off an incredible 12 months in which the 17-year-old also won bronze at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic big air competition, and slopestyle gold at the X Games last month.
“I really liked the course,” Sadowski Synnott said after the awards ceremony was held on Sunday, “I thought it had a really nice flow. I love the options for the rails. They gave you a ton to experiment with and get creative with. I was really stoked with yesterday’s run. I dropped second from last, I put down my first run and was really really happy - I got my rail line and then my jump suite which I hadn’t been getting in practice.”
Second place went to Norway’s Silje Norendal with a score of 88.75, giving the 25-year-old her second world champs podium in as many starts, after she took bronze at the Sierra Nevada 2017 competition.
Third place went to one of snowboarding’s all-time greats in Jamie Anderson, as the PyeongChang 2018 gold medallist took Utah 2019 bronze with a score of 87.25, giving her her first career world championships medal in her one and only world champs start.
“I was honestly pretty sad they canceled the finals,” said Anderson, “There are a lot of mixed emotions. I was on the podium but I still wanted to have a chance to ride better. But there were definitely some gusty winds, and in the end they made the best decision.”
Over on the men’s side, the USA’s Chris Corning was duly awarded the gold for putting down the best run of Saturday’s qualifications, as he was clean, precise, and technical throughout his run, finishing things off with a massive triple cork 1440 on the bottom jump and score of 93.25 to take the win.
“I can’t argue with the decision, there were definitely safety concerns,” Corning said from the bottom of the course on Sunday, “It sucks, but it is what it is. It was really happy with my run yesterday. It was hard to see and probably one of the scariest contest runs I’ve had to do in a long time. I was looking forward to today to ride. But I’ll take it, because I planted my run yesterday pretty solid.”
Second place went to Canada’s Mark McMorris, finishing back of Corning by the barest of margins with a score of 93.00. Widely regarded as one of the greatest slopestyle competitors of all time and potentially within reach of what could have been his first career world championships gold emdal, McMorris was sanguine about the decision to cancel Sunday’s event.
“Today was a little interesting,” McMorris said, “I think FIS made the right call to make sure the riders were safe. A podium is a podium, so I’ll go home happy. Everything that I wish could have changed was out of my hands and I rode well. So I’m happy.
Third place for the men went to 17-year-old Judd Henkes with a score of 90.50 to give the host US squad three podiums on the day and close out the Utah 2019 world championships as the medal table leader.
While everyone involved in the Utah 2019 slopestyle competition, from athletes to organisers, were saddened to cancel what was intended to be the grand finale of the world championships, some of the sting was taken out of the decision by the fact that Saturday’s qualifiers saw the best riding of the week on the Park City course, with the best athletes of the day able to put down their best runs. Though the finals had the potential to be a fitting ender in the right conditions, Sunday’s weather completely ruled out a suitable and safe world championships competition taking place, and in the end nearly all agreed the right decision was made in cancelling the competition.