Aspen halfpipe skier Alex Ferreira finishes second in Snowmass Grand Prix to meet Winter Olympic team criteria
Men’s ski halfpipe final results
1. David Wise, USA 95
2. Alex Ferreira, USA 93
3. Aaron Blunck, USA 91.20
4. Noah Bowman, CAN 90
5. Mike Riddle, CAN 89.20
6. Kevin Rolland, FRA 88.60
7. Gus Kenworthy, USA 87.80
8. Joel Gisler, SUI 82.80
9. Birk Irving, USA 82.40
10. Taylor Seaton, USA 44.40
U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM SELECTION RANKINGS
(after 4 of 5 qualifying events)
1. David Wise, 200*
2. Alex Ferreira, 180*
3. Torin Yater-Wallace 150
4. Aaron Blunck, 140*
5. Gus Kenworthy, 116
6. Taylor Seaton, 92
7. Birk Irving, 65
*has met minimum qualifying criteria with two podiums
Not even a year ago, Alex Ferreira was struggling to find his place in the skiing world. Then came Friday at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix in Snowmass, where the Aspen halfpipe skier all but locked up a spot in next month’s Olympics in South Korea.
Ferreira finished second to Nevada’s David Wise in Friday’s men’s freeskiing halfpipe finals. It is Ferreira’s second Olympic-qualifying podium — the other was his breakthrough win at the Dew Tour last month — and means he has objectively qualified for his first Olympic Games.
“I’ve never felt this feeling before in my life. It’s euphoria. I’m so, so happy,” Ferreira said after getting his silver medal Friday. “I was definitely not myself there for a while last spring. To be here, I can’t even believe it. I guess you just have to believe in yourself and do what you love.”
With the win, Wise — the reigning Olympic gold medalist — confirmed his nomination to the Olympic team and will go to Pyeongchang. He also won the Copper Grand Prix in December.
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“There is plenty of pressure on me, but if I wanted to let the pressure sit on my shoulders, it would crush me,” Wise said. “Rather than do that, I’m approaching each day one run at a time.”
Ferreira, who was third in qualifying Wednesday, briefly held the lead in Friday’s finals. His first run score of 92.80 vaulted him ahead of Canada’s Noah Bowman, but a skier later, Wise topped Ferreira with a 95, which ended up being the best run of the competition. In his third and final run, Ferreira scored 93 for his best run.
Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck, the reigning X Games Aspen gold medalist, finished third with 91.20, scored on his first run to secure an American sweep of the podium. Of the 10 finalists, six of them scored at least 82 in the first of their three runs.
Bowman (90) and fellow Canadian Mike Riddle (89.20) just missed the podium, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. France’s Kevin Rolland was sixth (88.60), Telluride’s Gus Kenworthy seventh (87.80), Switzerland’s Joel Gisler eighth (82.80), Winter Park’s Birk Irving ninth (82.40) and Avon’s Taylor Seaton 10th (44.40).
“Everyone was just kicking ass is what it comes down to. Everyone was doing really well,” Ferreira said. “For me to stand on the podium and share it with everybody, the top guys, I’m elated.”
The 23-year-old Ferreira had not won any of the top-tier competitions until the Breckenridge Dew Tour in December. An ankle injury kept him out of X Games Aspen and the first Olympic qualifier in Mammoth last winter, prompting him to spend about a month ski bumming around Europe. There, he rediscovered his love for skiing.
Since his return, Ferreira has consistently been a force in the halfpipe. He won a pair of World Cup events, one in France and one in New Zealand, to go with his Dew Tour victory, but even those don’t compare to getting on the podium and effectively locking up an Olympic spot in his own backyard. It also keeps Ferreira atop the World Cup rankings, if barely, over Wise.
“There is nothing like competing in front of the home crowd,” Ferreira said. “This is an iconic moment for me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this for the rest of my life.”
While podiums from Ferreira and Blunck allow them to meet the Olympic criteria for the U.S. team, only Wise has guaranteed his spot. There is one more qualifier next week at Mammoth, and the expected four-man ski halfpipe team will be announced shortly after.
“It feels pretty good, honestly,” Ferreira said of getting that second podium. “It was a stressful time in my life. We got one more still and I still got to put in a lot more work.”
After four of the five qualifying events, Wise has 200 points in the U.S. team’s selection rankings. In second is Ferreira with 180 points, while Blunck, a 2014 Olympian, is fourth with 140 points.
In third with 150 points is Aspen’s Torin Yater-Wallace, another 2014 Olympian, who failed to make Friday’s finals. Yater-Wallace won the first Olympic qualifier last winter, but has yet to lock down that second podium.
In fifth is Kenworthy, followed by Seaton then Irving. Kenworthy and Seaton also have a qualifying podium to date — both coming in Mammoth last winter — so if either wins next week in Mammoth there is the potential one could knock someone like Yater-Wallace out of the top four if he doesn’t also podium.
Long story short, there is still a lot to be decided in what is a deep and talented group of American halfpipe skiers vying for an Olympic spot.
“Everyone’s got their own approach to the pipe and everyone is so damn good right now,” Wise said. “It definitely pushes me. Honestly, the last thing I would want to do is be the front-runner and not have any competition. I want to win, but I want to win when the guys I had to beat were really hard to beat.”
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