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Schiller golden in big air

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
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The decision to cancel skier men’s slopestyle in favor of a big air best trick competition because of steady snow Sunday afternoon was met with disagreement from many competitors.

T.J. Schiller, however, could not have been happier.

The Vernon, B.C., native, who said big air is his strongest discipline, backed up that assertion by laying down a clean 1080 on his opening run. His score of 91.33 held up, earning Schiller his first-ever X Games gold.

Charles Gagnier and Andrea Hatveit finished second and third, respectively.

The three competitors finished in identical positions in last week’s big air competition at the U.S. Freeskiing Open in Vail.

“Big air is my thing, so this definitely worked in my favor,” said Schiller, who landed a switch 1440 to claim the Vail title. “The format is easier. You do two tricks that you know you can do well and know you’re going to land. I felt comfortable.”

Schiller, the 17th of 20 competitors to compete in the two-round format, said he was confident his score would hold up. His nerves were tested, however. Gagnier, last year’s X Games slopestyle gold medalist, was the event’s final competitor.

Needing a 91.34 to claim gold, Gagnier landed a clean switch 1080, holding his tail grab for the majority of his rotation. He, along with the crowd, anxiously waited for the judges’ score to appear on the Jumbotron. While he improved nearly 11 points from run one to two, the Quebec native came up short, scoring an 89.33. Hatveit, of Sudndalen, Norway, scored an 87.66.

Sweden’s Jon Olsson ” Winter X’s most decorated skier with eight medals ” finished fifth with an 82, one point behind France’s Candide Thovax.

“I was disappointed,” said Gagnier. “I’m better at slopestyle. I’m better at the rails and mixing up tricks. I think it was the best thing to do.”

Schiller, who suffered a leg injury after a fall in superpipe practice Saturday, benefited from the shorter course and the opportunity to use his oft-rehearsed “money trick.”

“My leg’s beat up because I took a coping to the leg,” Schiller said. “I thought I broke my femur. I took eight Advil and four Red Bulls, so I had good energy.”

Schiller also benefited from the absence of Tanner Hall, who pulled himself out of slopestyle Saturday night.

“I wanted to put a lot more focus into pipe,” Hall said. “Just the sketchy conditions, sketchy day, I’ve got a whole winter ahead of me and I’m coming off a pretty big injury, so I’m just trying to use my head a little bit more these days.”

Carbondale’s Peter Olenick gave his loyal following plenty to cheer about during the first run. Olenick, the sixth skier out of the start, landed a switch backside 1080. His score of 75 vaulted him, at the time, into first place. He corked out too far on his natural 1080 attempt during his second run, fell and lost his left ski. He finished 10th. Aspen’s Steele Spence finished 16th.

“I’m angry we didn’t do slopestyle,” Olenick said. “But I’m stoked on all the support.”

Aspen, Colorado


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