13-year-old Sildaru takes slopestyle gold
The Aspen Times
Kelly Sildaru of Tallinn, Estonia, became the youngest gold medalist in Winter X Games history Friday when she won the women’s ski slopestyle competition at Buttermilk Mountain.
The 13-year-old Sildaru put down a dazzling first run in the three-run slopestyle format, posting a crowd-pleasing 93. She navigated all three major jumps with powerful takeoffs and smooth landings.
When her score was posted, Sildaru did her “Walk Like an Egyptian” dance in her ski boots in the finish area to celebrate.
An hour later, her score still stood at the top of the podium.
“It was amazing,” the diminutive Sildaru said, adding that she was nervous before her first Winter X Games event.
Tiril Sjasad Christiansen of Geilo, Norway, finished second Friday. She posted a 91.61 on her third and final run.
Third place and the bronze medal went to Johanne Killi of Dombaas, Norway, as international skiers swept the podium in the women’s ski slopestyle, which was staged under a brilliant sunny sky after an overnight snowstorm.
Sildaru is far from an unknown after winning a Toyota Women’s Freestyle event earlier this season.
But her victory Friday established her as the youngest Winter X gold medalist ever.
She surpassed Chloe Kim of Torrance, California, who won gold in 2015 at 14.
Previously, snowmobiler Tucker Hibbert was the youngest medalist at age 15 in 2000.
Fourth place on Friday went to Maggie Voisin of Whitefish, Montana, one of only two U.S. skiers in the competition.
Keri Herman of Breckenridge, 33, competed once again at Buttermilk. She has competed in every women’s slopestyle event held at the Winter X Games. She was eighth Friday after winning silver last year.
Herman is 20 years older than winner Sildaru.
Emma Dahlstrom of Sweden, the defending champion in the women’s ski slopestyle, finished sixth.
“This is the toughest (competition) we’ve ever had in women’s slopestyle,” said Christiansen, who missed the past two Winter X Games because of injury.
She returned to competition with a huge smile Friday.
“Taking silver was like a gold medal for me,” she said. “It’s so amazing to be back in Aspen. This is one of the best days I’ve had skiing so far.”
Christiansen, hugely popular in Aspen, said she was thrilled to watch young Sildaru win the Winter X gold.
“(Sildaru) is skiing so well,” Christiansen said of the 88-pound gold medalist. “I’ve been watching her since she was even younger.”
Christiansen said Sildaru makes the other competitors work harder.
“She is such a big inspiration for all of us.”
Sildaru, for her part, said skiing is limited in her home country, where the tallest hill measures 300 meters.
She said she trains in France, among other places.
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