Birk Ruud of Norway takes men’s ski big air for his first X Games Aspen gold
January 26, 2019
Birk Ruud is making the case that he could be the next Scandinavian to rule the big air competitions.
The 18-year-old skier from Norway unseated Swede Henrik Harlaut for the second consecutive X Games competition Saturday night, winning the Buttermilk event in his second appearance in Aspen. Ruud's two-score total of 89 points was two points better than Canadian Alex Beaulieu-Marchand and seven ahead of James Woods of Great Britain, who took third.
Ruud won the X Games Norway event in May on the last run when Harlaut was sitting in first. Harlaut has six X Games golds, including three in Aspen's big air. Saturday night he finished sixth in the eight-man field.
"I am usually nervous with every contest, but I was kind of tired today after practice yesterday," Ruud said. "But I just had to relax and take my time more than just pushing through. I was relaxed and comfortable."
He wasn't as clean as he wanted on his fourth run but it was still enough to push him past Beaulieu-Marchand and into first place. The leftside 1600 triple-cork run, which is four-and-a-half rotations and three flips, was a bit soft, he said.
"I didn't really get the trick I wanted to do, the grab combo on the triple-cork," he said. "But I still got a really good score so I'm really happy."
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It's been a rough X Games journey for Beaulieu-Marchand, whose silver in Saturday night's big air was the culmination of comebacks and getting in a good head space.
His first trip to Aspen was in 2013, and he struggled those first couple of years in slopestyle. In 2015, he tore his ACL in his left knee on the final jump of his second slopestyle run. He missed 2016 after breaking his left collarbone just weeks before.
"I've been doing X Games for so long, and to finally be in that good mindset and perform and do the tricks I've been dreaming of for so long, it just feels incredible to put them down in front of everybody," the 24-year-old Beaulieu-Marchand said.
After the 2016 injury he started to see a sports psychologist. Since then, he's had an incredible amount of confidence and focuses on himself, not his competitors, the scores or the judges.
"That helps me so much really believe in myself and know that I can go out there and put it down," he said. "I'm very happy where I am in my head and with my skiing."
His focus next turns to today's slopestyle finals, where he qualified first. He won bronze in the 2017 event after the injuries, but was fifth last year.
"I'm going to go right to bed and be ready for tomorrow," he said Saturday night. "Don't worry about that."