Bronze in Beijing: Aspen’s Ferreira wins second Olympic medal in halfpipe skiing
Alex Ferreira adds to his Olympic medal collection after also winning silver at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in what was his first Olympics
Mother Nature couldn’t bring enough wind, nor could Nico Porteous do enough spins, to bring down the good vibes felt by Aspen’s Alex Ferreira after he won Olympic bronze in men’s halfpipe skiing on Saturday at the Beijing Games.
Only nine months ago the 27-year-old Ferreira had surgery to fix two pinched nerves in his neck that had been causing him intense pain for more than a year. To end up on the Olympic podium for a second time — he won silver four years ago in Pyeongchang — was more than he could ask for.
“No one liked me. I didn’t like me, because I was just demoralized every day in such horrible pain. I’m just happy to be out of pain and alive,” Ferreira told reporters after the final in Zhangjiakou, which is about 100 miles from Beijing. “Once I started getting healthy from that, I just started small, going on little walks, little runs, then major bike rides, then the trampoline every day, and I just started to get motivated again. I started to feel like me again. I started to be happy and just live my life.”
Despite the gusty conditions that at times overshadowed the final, Ferreira’s first-run score of 86.75 was enough for bronze in the three-run format that saw all the podium results come from that first run through the Genting Snow Park halfpipe.
New Zealand’s Porteous won Olympic gold behind his back-to-back 1620 combo — he won bronze in 2018 — while Nevada’s David Wise won silver, ending his reign as the Olympic champion after winning gold in both 2014 and 2018. It was the exact same podium as from Pyeongchang four years ago, only in a different order.
“I stomped what I knew,” Porteous said of performing in the frigid and windy conditions. “Tried my best and left everything out there. … It’s so freezing cold right now, I’m lost for words.”
Porteous wasted no time putting down his 1620 combo — something he did for the first time at X Games Aspen in 2021 — for a 93 that held on through the three rounds. Wise scored 90.75 on his highly technical first run, which held down the top spot until Porteous went two skiers later.
Only 20, Porteous currently is the reigning Olympic champion, world champion and two-time reigning X Games Aspen champion.
The skiers admitted that the wind, reported to be around 15 mph — not to mention a wind chill around minus-26 degrees Fahrenheit — limited the runs they could do. Ferreira said his runs were about 85% of his best due to the weather.
“Very tough conditions today. I worked my absolute cheeks off. I gave it my 100%, every single thing that I had I put into those runs, so I’m just so grateful to be standing on the podium,” Ferreira said. “Everybody in the field planned out much more difficult runs, but when we have this kind of wind and this kind of conditions, you just have to do the best you can possibly do and I came out there and I did my best.”
Canada’s Noah Bowman was fourth, followed by Winter Park’s Birk Irving in fifth, France’s Kevin Rolland in sixth and Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck in seventh. The 25-year-old Blunck has finished exactly seventh in all three of his Olympic appearances.
The Telluride-raised Gus Kenworthy, competing for his mother’s homeland of Great Britain, finished eighth. He crashed on his first two runs but scored 71.25 on his third run, which was likely the last of his career. The 30-year-old Kenworthy, who won slopestyle silver back at the 2014 Games, said he will retire after these Olympics.
Rounding out the finalists were Canadians Brendan Mackay in ninth and Simon D’Artois in 10th; New Zealand’s Miguel Porteous, Nico’s older brother, in 11th; and Switzerland’s Robin Briguet in 12th.
Ferreira scored 86.75 on his first run behind four different double corks. He upped the difficulty in his second and third runs, pairing a double cork 1620 with a double cork 1440, but missed grabs didn’t sit well with the judges, scoring 83.75 and 67.75 to close out his contest.
Thankfully for him, that first run was enough to go home with another medal.
“I’m a workhorse. Every day, all day, I’m just there. I’m at the trampoline, I’m at the water ramps, I’m at the gym, and the people who know me closest, they know,” Ferreira said. “Extremely happy, extremely grateful to get the job done. Being on the podium, that’s my second Olympics, two medals, I consider that a ‘W’ if you ask me.”
Porteous was the overwhelming favorite coming into the contest and laid it all out there on his first run. His 1620 combo is currently unmatched by his competitors and puts him at the forefront of progression in men’s halfpipe skiing.
While the 20-year-old Kiwi is likely just getting started, Ferreira now finds himself among the older generation just trying to keep up. Prior to going to China, Ferreira admitted it was Porteous who provided him with the inspiration for learning the double cork 1620 — that’s four-and-a-half rotations, plus the two inversions, or corks — in the lead-up to the Games.
“It’s so hard for the younger generation to break through, but it’s also hard for the older generation to keep up,” Ferreira said. “For me, I’m right in that middle ground where I’m a little bit older, but I’m also still gunning. I still feel like a kid and I still want to keep that energy and keep learning and growing and doing my best.”
After recovering from neck surgery, Ferreira returned to his 2018 Olympic podium form. He won the season-opening Copper Grand Prix and a week later won Dew Tour for the third time in his career, locking up a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the second time.
Getting to the Beijing Games was a trying journey for the Aspen kid, who grew up with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and still lives just down the road at Aspen Highlands. He was hoping to end up a few steps higher on the podium, but all things considered that bronze is as good as gold.
“I never thought I’d be the same, or I didn’t know if I could be the same again. And I competed for the first time at the Copper Grand Prix and I ended up winning the event,” Ferreira said. “My goal was to get the gold and I wasn’t able to accomplish that today, but being on the podium in such tough conditions, honestly I feel like I got the gold. That’s two Olympics with two medals. It’s two-fer. I feel so happy and so grateful to be here. It’s a good day.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.