ASPEN - In a competition sidetracked by serious crashes, an unlikely face provided a feel-good story of the day.
While two athletes were carried off Buttermilk on Sunday afternoon, Tiril Sjastad Christiansen, a 17-year-old from Geilo, Norway, stole the women's ski slopestyle gold medal away from one of her idols, three-time defending gold medalist Kaya Turski. Christiansen landed a second-run score of 91.33 and then padded her lead in the third turn with a 92.33.
Turski, in stark contrast, fell on both of her first two runs and didn't post a complete score until her final run.
"It's unbelievable," Christiansen said. "Ending up winning is insane. I have no words."
Christiansen, after falling on her first run, rebounded with a huge second run that no competitor was able to eclipse. Her run included a few standout tricks in the rail section, and then she landed a cab 540, a left 540, a switch right-side 540 tailgrab and a switch 900 tailgrab.
Bronze medalist Dara Howell was the closet to Christiansen entering the third round with an 89.33 on her second run.
But all eyes were on Turski to produce a gold-medal run in her final opportunity. Last year, she was in third going into her last run. This year, the circumstance was notably different.
Turski's last run occurred in the shadow of the second major crash of the day.
Ashley Battersby, a 25-year-old from Chicago, fell on the last jump attempting to land a switch 540. She got both skis to the ground, lost control and careened to her right headfirst into the side netting.
Medical personnel attended to Battersby for almost 30 minutes and then transported her off Buttermilk on a sled.
It is believed that Battersby suffered a left knee injury and no other injuries resulting from crashing into the netting.
"There's no doubt I experienced a mixture of emotions throughout the day," Turski said. "I had a really rough time the first two runs. I was so bummed to hear Ashley go down. She's my girl."
Added Christiansen, "Kaya is such a good skier, and she's been my idol since I started skiing. I felt sorry for her standing at the top waiting and waiting and waiting, but she made it (on the podium)."
Turski admitted she just wanted to land a solid run and could have thrown more technical tricks than she did.
The 24-year-old from Montreal, Quebec, produced a clean rail section up top and then landed a switch front 450, a rodeo 540, a switch 720 and a corked switch 540. It wasn't enough, and her streak of three consecutive gold medals ended.
"I had a hard time, and I'm excited just to put down a run in that situation," she said.
Before the women's skiing slopestyle final began, Rose Battersby, of New Zealand, crashed on her back during practice off the second jump. Rose, who has no family relation to Ashley Battersby, slid to her left off the course and onto the snowmobile trail leading up to the top of the course.
Battersby was placed on a sled and then transported to Aspen Valley Hospital.
"I think it's always really disappointing to hear that one of your fellow competitors went down," Turski said. "You just have to wait it out. We just kept things as positive as possible and sent out the best vibes as we can."
Later in the day, an ESPN official said Rose Battersby suffered a lumbar spinal fracture and was in no danger of paralysis.
For Christiansen, she is the youngest women's skiing competitor to claim a gold medal.
"I'm just glad I landed both of my last two runs," she said. "I think everyone did a super good job, and I'm just stoked to win."