Winter X Games athletes soar to new amplitudes | AspenTimes.com

Winter X Games athletes soar to new amplitudes

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

Elena KOENZ SUI soars in to the air at the FIS Snowboard World Cup big air competition in Istanbul, Turkey.

With the Winter X Games returning to Aspen in less than a month, the international spotlight is shining this winter on the action athletes who are setting new standards in skiing and snowboarding.

The celebrated and friendly halfpipe rivalry between Olympic freeskiers Torin Yater-Wallace and David Wise has risen to new amplitude with their trend-setting showdowns at Copper Mountain and Breckenridge earlier this month.

They'll be among the featured performers when the Winter X Games hits Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen on Jan. 21 through Jan. 25.

This year, the Winter X Games will open with a Wednesday evening women's ski superpipe event.

The tradition four-day event schedule will follow on Thursday, Jan. 22., running through Sunday, Jan. 25 with production and television coverage by ESPN.

Yater-Wallace, from Aspen, is rebounding from an injury-plagued season a year ago.

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But after edging Wise in the dramatic final in the pipe at Breckenridge, Yater-Wallace is back among the sports elite.

And while those two are blazing new trails in the halfpipe, a young snowboarder from Stowe, Vermont, is dazzling under the international spotlight in Turkey.

Young Ty Walker, 17, became the first women ever to win an FIS Snowboard Big Air World Cup event.

Walker won the featured big air contest in front of a packed house at Technical University Stadium in Istanbul last weekend.

The event in Istanbul showcased big air snowboarding, which is being considered for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Walker, one of the youngest Olympians in Sochi last winter, qualified in slopestyle snowboarding — an event on the calendar for the 2015 Winter X Games in Aspen. The women's snowboard slopestyle finals will be Sunday, Jan. 25, at Buttermilk.

In her big air win in Turkey, Walker landed both backside and frontside 720s.

She finished ahead of runner-up Sina Candrian, a Swiss rider, and Cheryl Maas, of the Netherlands.

Walker attends the USSA Team Academy in Park City, Utah, where she is scheduled to graduate with honors in the spring.

"Before the last jump, I was going crazy at the top," Walker said in an interview with USSA. "I knew I had the trick, but I was nervous. I kept telling myself, 'I always land my runs in Turkey. I always land my runs in Turkey,'"

She said she tried to stay positive … "trying to get myself stoked. I was nervous, for sure, but I just kept thinking you know what it feels like to land a perfect front 720. Luckily, I landed one," Walker said.

On the men's side, U.S. Snowboarding slopestyle rider Brandon Davis of Mammoth Lakes, California, finished on the podium in third place in the World Cup event in Turkey.

He landed a cab 1260 melon and a BS 1080 double cork nose-to-tail double grab to earn his first World Cup podium.

Swiss rider Jonas Boesing was second.

Seppe Smits, the Belgium rider, won the event.

"Istanbul put on such a spectacular big event," said U.S. Snowboarding head coach Mike Jankowski, who is a regular at the Winter X Games in Aspen.

Jankowski, who was watched a number of winter sports move from the Winter X Games to the Olympic Games, said he hopes to see more city big air events.

dstrode@aspentimes.com

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