Snowboard slopestyle finals set, with Anderson, Gerard making it through
After less than ideal conditions throughout world championships, athletes weren’t complaining about Friday’s balmy weather during snowboard slopestyle qualifying at the U.S. Grand Prix and World Cup at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen.
“It’s literally like being at the beach right now,” California’s Hailey Langland said. “But I’m so stoked. I haven’t really had a great season this year, so to be able to even put two down in a contest, I’m so hyped.”
Langland was one of the three American women to make it through to Saturday’s final, finishing third with a second-run score of 79.76 in the two-run qualifier. Close friend and fellow U.S. national team member Julia Marino was second (81.20), while Japan’s Kokomo Murase led the way with 84.38. In fourth was Tahoe icon Jamie Anderson (77.46).
The other four qualifiers include Austria’s Anna Gasser (76.10), Canada’s Laurie Blouin (73.13), Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi (70.08) and Australia’s Tess Coady (68.03).
“It was so fun today,” Gasser said. “I appreciate it so much that the weather is good and the vibe is so much higher when the sun is out. A little bit of slush also helps.”
Germany’s Annika Morgan (67.21) and Japan’s Miyabi Onitsuka (66.78) were the first two to miss the cut in the 30-woman field.
Murase, only 16, had a strong showing last week at world championships, finishing fifth in slopestyle and sixth in big air.
New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott edged Anderson and Cody to win gold at worlds but isn’t competing in the Grand Prix to instead take part in the third stop of Travis Rice’s Natural Selection Tour, which starts Saturday in Alaska. She won the first stop in Jackson, Wyoming.
“I’m pretty stoked,” Blouin said. “I’m stoked to land both slope runs. It feels pretty nice. We are lucky today is an insane day.”
Gerard among three American men into finals
Summit County’s Red Gerard, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in slopestyle, led his heat in qualifying and will be one of three American men competing in Saturday’s final, along with Judd Henkes and X Games breakout star Dusty Henricksen.
Despite putting down solid runs, Americans Brock Crouch (79.50) and Chris Corning (78.50) finished 14th and 16th, respectively, and are among those to narrowly miss out on making the 12-man final.
“I was super stoked to put down the first run,” said Henricksen, the 18-year-old from California who won two gold, including slopestyle, in his X Games debut in January. “It’s always a nice weight off the chest, just getting one out of the way and knowing you have a score on the board. Definitely tried to clean it up that last run, but didn’t quite work out.”
Also qualifying behind Gerard (90) in Heat 1 were Canada’s Max Parrot (85.75), Henkes (82.50), Canada’s Liam Brearley (82.25), Switzerland’s Moritz Thoenen (80.75) and Japan’s Hiroaki Kunitake (80.50).
Norway’s Marcus Kleveland, who won world slopestyle gold last week, led the second heat with 94. Behind him were Finland’s Rene Rinnekangas (89.50), Henricksen (86.50), Canada’s Mark McMorris (84), Russia’s Vlad Khadarin (82.50) and Norway’s Markus Olimstad (81.50).
A total of 61 athletes took part in the two men’s qualifying heats.
All slopestyle finals — including men’s and women’s skiing — are Saturday at Buttermilk. The Grand Prix is the first official Olympic qualifier for the U.S. athletes ahead of the 2022 Winter Games in China.
“I would love to up the last jump,” Gerard said of his plan for Saturday. “But finals, once again, just land some runs. Other than that, I just try to have some fun.”
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