Unheralded names dominate ski big air podiums at the world championships
A pair of Russian women and a Swedish man led the way for a group of unheralded podium finishers in the freeski big air finals on the final day of the world championships Tuesday at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen.
Russia’s Anastasia Tatalina became the first from her country to win freeski worlds gold, with runs of 93 and 91.50 giving her a total of 184.50 in the best two of three runs format. She easily held off countrywoman Lana Prusakova, who won worlds silver with 165.50 (75.50-90). Both 20, it’s the first major international podium for either woman.
“We were just screaming and shouting,” Prusakova said. “I can’t believe that it just happened. This is my first world championship podium and I’m super happy about it. It means so much to me and I’m so proud.”
Tatalina cruised to the win by becoming the first woman to land both left and right side double cork 1260s in the same ski big air competition.
“It’s amazing. I’ve been training so hard for this one and I finally made it,” she said. “I know I have those tricks and I wanted to land them. I worked so hard for that and I made it finally.”
Winning bronze Tuesday was China’s Eileen Gu with 161.50 (87.25-74.25). The native Californian, who competes for her mother’s homeland in competition, wrapped up her first world championship starts with three medals in three events after also winning both ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle gold. No freeskier had ever found the podium in all three events at worlds until Gu.
Gu also took home the same medal combinations in her X Games Aspen debut in January.
“I’m not going to lie, I did not expect to medal in this event,” Gu said of big air at worlds. “It is my third big air, ever, and I came in with the intention of doing the left (double cork 1080) and the right (double cork 1260). I’ve never landed the right dub 12 in a contest ever before, be it slope or big air. Today was just about pushing my own limits and being able to show myself what’s possible. I genuinely am just as happy as if I had won. I cannot believe I got third place. It’s just icing on the cake.”
Rounding out the women’s final were Canada’s Megan Oldham (fourth, 158.75), Norway’s Sandra Eie (fifth, 154.25), Italy’s Silvia Bertagna (sixth, 125.25), France’s Tess Ledeux (seventh, 113.75) — she was arguably the heavy favorite coming in — and Switzerland’s Sarah Hoefflin (eighth, 79.25), another top contender.
Magnusson leads surprising men’s podium
Sweden’s Oliwer Magnusson, a 20-year-old whose only major podium prior had been taking second at a 2019 World Cup slopestyle competition in Italy, was the surprise men’s ski big air winner. He scored 185.25 with tricks of 94.25 and 91 — both 1800s — to narrowly hold off Canada’s Edouard Therriault (183). Magnusson hails from the same country as big air legend Henrik Harlaut, who failed to qualify for finals.
“It’s crazy. All the big names, I’ve been looking up to them my whole life. It’s so nice to compete against them,” Magnusson said. “Feeling super nice. My first win on a big competition, so I’m super stoked.”
This was also a first major podium for the 18-year-old Therriault, who is so raw to the international scene he didn’t even have a photo uploaded to the FIS (International Skiing Federation) website at the start of the season.
“It’s nice to do big tricks and have this little flavor and to be able to come up second,” Therriault said.
Switzerland’s Kim Gubser won bronze with 180.75, yet another unheralded 20-year-old with no major prior podiums to his name.
Connecticut’s Mac Forehand led the Americans, taking fourth with a score of 180 (88-92). The 19-year-old also finished fourth in slopestyle at the 2019 world championships in Utah before finishing 31st this year.
“After not landing my second jump, I just really wanted to put something down. I didn’t really care where I ended up,” Forehand said. “It’s insane today. Every big air comp just gets crazier and crazier, so freeskiing is looking bright.”
Taking fifth Tuesday was Canada’s Evan McEachran (178.75), sixth Switzerland’s Andri Ragettli (171.25), seventh Utah’s Alex Hall (166.75), eighth Norway’s Sebastian Schjerve (164.25), ninth Spain’s Thibault Magnin (112.5), 10th Sweden’s Jesper Tjader (110) and in 11th France’s Antoine Adelisse (93.25).
Norway’s Birk Ruud had been the 12th qualifier into finals, but withdrew to return home to be with an ailing family member.
The big air contests wrapped up the 2021 world championships in Aspen. Now, Buttermilk will host a World Cup and U.S. Grand Prix event that begins with the first qualifiers on Thursday. Like with worlds, spectators are not permitted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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