Aspen’s Alex Ferreira third
The Aspen Times
Alex Ferreira collected a Winter X Games medal that will stay right here in Aspen.
Ferreira, Aspen’s superpipe skier who just missed a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team, was all the way back in sixth place in the men’s ski superpipe finals after the first two rounds Friday night.
But the 19-year-old skier put together a dazzling final run at Buttermilk that yielded Winter X bronze.
Defending X Games gold medalist and U.S. Olympian David Wise, of Reno, Nev., won the 2014 gold in ski superpipe with a high score of 92.00.
French skier Kevin Rolland was next at 88.66.
Ferreira’s final-run 85.33 score produced Aspen’s first hometown medal in the Winter X Games this year.
“I fell on my first run. I was super-stressed,” Ferreira said. “Then, I fell on the second run, and I thought, ‘Oh my God.’”
After usually scoring his best on his first run, Ferreira faced a one-run challenge Friday night.
“I decided I was just going to ski, and that’s what I did,” Ferreira said with a brilliant smile.
He said the crowd of his hometown supporters really helped him win a Winter X Games medal.
Ferreira carried the mantle for Aspen when fellow Aspenite Torin Yater-Wallace opted out of the finals as he recovers from a serious injury and prepares for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics.
Coming off the broken ribs suffered in training last month, Yater-Wallace was the final qualifier for the finals from the early eliminations Wednesday night.
“After only a week of being back on snow, I decided to give my body a break in order to be ready for Sochi,” said 18-year-old Yater-Wallace, who started a scholarship in his name last year at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, where he got his competitive start.
“I am disappointed I won’t be competing (in the X Games superpipe final). But this is what my body needs in preparation for Sochi,” said Yater-Wallace, who finished second to David Wise in the 2013 Winter X Games.
“I will be returning to the X Games next year with a plan to win a medal,” said Yater-Wallace, a crowd favorite and acknowledged teen heartthrob.
“Alex winning a medal is like a dream come true,” Yater-Wallace said of his fellow Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club product. “I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Aspen will have a shot at another Winter X medal today when Gretchen Bleiler competes in the women’s snowboard superpipe – her final event ever in the Winter X Games. She will retire from competition at the end of the season.
Medals also were awarded Friday night in the women’s ski superpipe, an event that featured eight Olympians representing France, Canada, Japan, Australia (New Zealand) and the United States.
Maddie Bowman, the defending X Games gold medalist from South Lake Tahoe, Calif., came from behind with a huge second run and a winning score of 88.66.
Roz Groenewoud, of Calgary, Alberta, finished second with a first-run score of 85.66. Groenewoud is coming back from double knee surgery (cartilage) last year.
French skier Marie Martinod, with her young daughter Melirose in the crowd, finished third with an 82.33, which came on her second of three passes through the Buttermilk superpipe.
All eight finalists will compete against one another again in three weeks in Sochi, Russia, at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“The pipe was great,” Bowman said of the Buttermilk superpipe. “X Games always gets us a great venue.”
The Buttermilk superpipe measures 567 feet long (top to bottom) with 22-foot walls. It is 66 feet wide.
Bowman said that even with the Olympic Games coming up, she tired to focus on the X Games event Friday night.
“And I focused on enjoying myself. … That’s winning,” she said.
Martinod, who was out of the sport for six years, continued a remarkable comeback that started last year. She said she was inspired, in part, to come back to the sport by Sarah Burke, the Canadian superpipe superstar who died in a training accident in January 2012.
Burke had visited Martinod in France when the French skier was contemplating a comeback, with the ski superpipe added to the program for the Sochi Olympics.
Martinod said the last words she heard from Burke were, “You have to come back.”
More medals were awarded Friday night in the men’s snowboard big air competition, which was won by Max Parrot, of Canada.
Japan’s Yuki Kadono finished second, with Stale Sandbech, of Norway, third.
Parrot won with a trick he had just learned earlier Friday. He pulled it off to take the gold.
The action Friday opened with the finals in the women’s snowboarder X.
Lindsey Jacobellis, perhaps the most recognizable face (and hair) in snowboarding, extended her domination in the event by taking 2014 Winter X gold.
Jacobellis, from Stratton, Vt., won her eighth X Games gold in the event that features side-by-side racing down a course with jumps, bumps and rolls.
The medal made Jacobellis, a U.S. Olympian headed to Sochi, the most decorated female competitor in Winter X Games history.
Second place went to Eva Samkova, of the Czech Republic.
Norway’s Helene Olfasen finished third.
U.S. Olympian Nate Holland won his seventh gold in the men’s snowboarder X on Friday. Holland, from Truckee, Calif., repeated his gold from the 2013 Winter X Games in Aspen. Holland also is an Olympic gold medalist.
Alex Tuttle, from Maine, finished second.
Konstantin Schad, from Germany, was third.
“It’s been a year of adversity for me,” Holland said after rebounding from a broken collarbone to win in Aspen on Friday. He recalled waking up in a helicopter after his injury crash, realizing he had a long path back to competition.
“And this week I caught a gnarly cold,” Holland said, apologizing for missing media interviews the past three days while he was stuck in bed.
In addition to his comeback win, Holland said he and his fellow competitors were ecstatic that snowboarder X returned to the Winter X Games this year after a one-year hiatus.
“We’re happy to be back,” Holland said.
“We love that it’s back in the X games,” said Jacobellis, who took a two-year break from the sport before returning.
Tuttle was even happier than the two winners Friday because one discretionary spot still remains on the U.S men’s team for Sochi.
Tuttle made his case for the spot with a strong second place at Buttermilk.
“I felt really good,” Tuttle said. “It’s great to be here at the X Games, … a big stage before the Olympics.”
“Nate is in his own universe,” Tuttle said in tribute to Holland. “This guy just owns this place.”
Also Friday, eliminations were held in men’s ski slopestyle, which featured Aspen’s own Matt Walker.
Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut won the qualifying round with a high score of 95.00.
Andreas Hatveit, of Norway, was second (93.00).
U.S. Olympian Nick Goepper, who refined his snowboarding skills in his native Indiana, finished third in qualifying with a second-run score of 91.33.
Finals in men’s ski slopestyle are set for noon Sunday.
Others to advance include McRae Williams, Antti Ollila, Joss Christensen, Russ Henshaw and Gus Kenworthy.
Walker, 25, was No. 11 in the elimination scoring with his first-run score of 74.33.