Locals crash out in slopestyle
Steele Spence crashed out in the prelims and Peter Olenick followed suit in the finals. Clearly, the valley’s two ski slopestyle competitors have seen better X Games days than Sunday at Buttermilk.Olenick was the No. 3 qualifier when the field was culled from 20 to 10 in the morning, but he couldn’t stay on his feet during two runs in the afternoon final. He finished 10th.Spence, up against it and needing a big score on his second and final qualifying run, fell off the second rail at the top of the course. “Just a total fumble right at the beginning,” sighed Spence, who finished 17th.And in the absence of a local favorite in contention for medals since X Games debuted the discipline in Aspen in 2002 – Olenick was second last year, Spence was fourth and seventh in 2003 and ’02, respectively – an upstart unseated the X Games’ three-time and only ski slopestyle champion.Nineteen-year-old Charles Gagnier of Mount Saint Anne, Quebec, snatched gold from Tanner Hall, originally from Kalispell, Mont.Gagnier, the No. 1 qualifier, was the last to run in the final round. And after Hall, the No. 4 qualifier, scored a 91.0 on his second run to strengthen his grip on first place, only Olenick, third-place finisher (and No. 2 qualifier) Jon Olsson of Sweden, and Gagnier remained at the top of the course. At stake – Hall’s bid to become the first four-peat X Games gold medalist.
Then Olenick fell, Olsson’s high-flying collection of spins and stomped landings failed to score well enough, and then there was one. Meanwhile, Hall strutted around the finish area like a peacock, jawing at anyone who cared to listen.Gagnier broke out two Cab 720s (one spinning right, another left) and then a Cab 1080 for a finale. He stuck the landing off the last kicker, and the crowd hushed and turned to the Jumbotron for the judges’ take. Moments later, Gagnier was rewarded with a 92.66 – and his first X Games gold medal.”Best feeling ever,” said Gagnier, who also relegated Hall to runner-up at last week’s U.S. Freeskiing Open in Vail. “I’m just stoked. It’s not easy [to beat Tanner].”
For his part, Hall heaped praise on Gagnier one moment, then criticized him and the judging panel the next.”It’s all good,” Hall began one outburst. “I’ve had 15,000 people already come up to me and say I got robbed, but that’s how it goes. If you want to reward rollerblade-style skiing, what can you do? Charles skied so good, and he is such an amazing skier, I have nothing but good emotions and happy feelings for that kid.”Hall’s bipolar reaction continued.”It’s good man, it’s all good. But X Games needs to make sure they get no judges in the judges’ booth that may have any beef with no other skiers, and then everything will be all good,” Hall said.What is rollerblade style?”Like how he did his first rail, one-footed grinds; a lot of stuff. If you watch rollerbladers, that’s all they do. And skiing is not trying to be like rollerblading, that’s all,” Hall said.
Simon Dumont of Bethel, Maine, the fourth-place finisher and defending ski superpipe champion, was apparently one of the 15,000 people who told Hall he was robbed.”I definitely think Tanner had it,” said Dumont. “Tanner’s steez is just different.”Steez?”You know, style,” he said.Gagnier wasn’t having any of it, though.”I think Tanner had a good run, really solid on everything,” he said. “It’s just a question of timing.”
Gagnier, Hall, Olsson, Dumont and others including Olenick will face off again in the superpipe on Tuesday at the Milk.Said Dumont: “Obviously, I’m just going to have to shrug this off, go to the pipe, bear down and see what happens. Another day.”For Spence, he had a pragmatic take on his disappointment Sunday.”I’m really happy with the way I’ve been riding so far this year. X Games just didn’t work out. On that second rail, I didn’t line it up right and took a crash. After that, it’s pretty much over with, so that was that,” he said.”Now I’m stoked this is over with. I can start having fun.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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