Jossi Wells’ command performance finally snares X Games gold
It was a day of firsts Sunday in the men’s ski slopestyle competition in light snow at Buttermilk.
Jossi Wells of New Zealand won his first gold medal at the Winter X Games. Nick Goepper of the U.S. failed to win gold in slopestyle in Aspen for the first time in four years, and Oystein Braaten snared his first Winter X Games medal in Aspen.
Wells wasted no time becoming the skier to beat with the highest score on the first run. The snow picked up for the second, and most competitors were cautious on the jumps in the flat light, but Wells wasn’t leaving victory to chance. He solidified his lead by bumping up his high score from 88.33 to 90 in his third run.
He was ecstatic in the finish corral but had to wait as the final six competitors finished their runs. That included the final run by Goepper, the three-time defending champion. After negotiating rails well on the upper part of course on the final run, he failed to get any amplitude coming into the first of three jumps. He fell and surrendered the crown.
After the competition, 25-year-old Wells said he was overjoyed to get a Winter X Games gold that’s been eluding him since he was 17. Wells dropped competing in the superpipe to focus on slopestyle and big air this year.
Gus Kenworthy, a 24-year-old competitor from Telluride, also saved his best for the last of the three runs. Kenworthy came out of mid-pack to capture the silver medal with a strong third run. Kenworthy said he felt OK with his prior runs but knew he had to make some tweaks for the final run.
“I just knew I couldn’t have any mistakes,” he said.
Kenworthy said he and Wells have been friends for a long time.
“I feel honored to finish second to him,” he said.
Kenworthy grabbed silver in Thursday’s skier superpipe competition. That was his first X Games medal in Aspen. Now he has two silvers.
Braaten shook off the effects of a hard fall in practice earlier Sunday to grab bronze. His best score of the three runs was his first.
U.S. skier Joss Christensen tried to ski through a broken left hand. It appeared to bother him on his first run, but he was able to complete it. He took a hard fall on the third jump on his second run and was in pain in the finish corral. On his third run, he fell again coming off the rails. He faces surgery Monday.
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