Freeskiing Open: Go big or go home
January 17, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoCOPPER MOUNTAIN – When Andrew Hathaway woke up before the crack of dawn Wednesday, he still wasn’t sure when he was scheduled to compete at the U.S. Freeskiing Open.Less than six hours later, the high school student from Norwich, Vt.. was hugging his father at the bottom of the Catalyst Terrain Park slopestyle course at Copper Mountain.Hathaway, who won the first of five slopestyle qualifiers, said it was difficult having to start his day in the dark, both literally and figuratively.”It was the worst,” he said. “I woke up at 5:45, we drove to the base of Copper, and I found out I was in the first heat. I was not so stoked in the beginning because the first heat is the scariest, but afterward, I was stoked.”Hathaway, who improved from a first-run 68.5 to a second-run 85.5, was one of more than 200 skiers who learned at Tuesday’s athletes meeting that start lists for the five qualifying heats (spanning three consecutive days) wouldn’t be available until early Wednesday morning.
Although heat lists were posted outside event headquarters by Tuesday evening, most competitors were left wondering until Wednesday.”That’s never happened to me in any competition I’ve ever been in,” said Tyler Peterson, who finished 10th in the second heat – three places away from the final qualifying spot. “You always know the night before. People who were staying in Silverthorne had to drive over here first thing this morning just to find out they’re competing [Thursday]. That’s a negative point, but whatever, you deal with it and compete anyway.””It really doesn’t matter,” second-heat qualifier Sean Logan said. “If I could have gotten more practice in [Thursday] it might have been better, but there’s not really a big difference.”Logan had the third-best score of the day (82.25) behind Hathaway and second-heat winner P.K. Hunder, who racked up 89 points on his first run.Hunder, a 17-year-old from Norway, vaulted into the freeskiing spotlight last winter when he took second at the prestigious Jon Olsson Invitational in Sweden.”I was a little nervous before my run, but now I’m pretty confident,” Hunder said after his first trip through Catalyst. “I have no hopes for podium positions in this contest because there’s so many good riders.”
Competition was indeed tight Wednesday as more than 100 men (and boys) vied for 13 spots in Friday’s semifinals.”The qualifiers are always tougher than the semis,” said Mike Riddle, who finished 16th in the second heat and thus was on the outside looking in. “There’s way more pressure because it’s all the unknowns trying to catch you. So few people get through that it’s so competitive.”Riddle, and second-heat qualifier Justin Dorey (fifth place), are among a handful of slopestyle competitors who have pre-qualified for the weekend halfpipe competition. Clad in black tank tops with their names printed on the back, they were easy to spot.Twenty-four athletes are pre-qualifed for the superpipe competition, while 22 are guaranteed berths in the slopestyle semis.Dorey was among several riders who seemed in favor of the U.S. Open’s recent venue shift.
“It’s way better at Copper than it has been in the past at Vail,” Dorey said. “It’s a better course and a better vibe – it just seems a lot more fun.”Logan echoed Dorey’s sentiments.”The jumps are way smoother, they link up and have real good flow,” Logan said. “If you hit one, you got real good speed into the other ones. With the rails at the bottom, you could kind of slow yourself down rather than hitting rails at the top that increased your speed for all the jumps.”The remaining qualifiers from Wednesday’s opening heat were Christophe Sollner (Australia), Jacob Wester (Sweden), Daniel Schiessl (Germany), Michael Clarke (U.S.) and Karl Fostvedt (U.S.).Other second-heat qualifiers included Luke Nutting (U.S.), Matt Soundy (New Zealand), Brett Weiss and Eric Strand (Sweden).U.S. Open slopestyle action continues today with men’s qualifying heats at 9:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. The women’s slopestyle semis are set for 3 p.m.