Aspen’s Ferreira wins Copper Grand Prix, likely locks up 2022 Olympic team spot
This was Ferreira’s first World Cup win at Copper Mountain
Aspen’s Alex Ferreira may have punched his ticket to February’s Winter Olympics by winning the men’s freeski halfpipe competition on Friday at the Copper Mountain Grand Prix, the second of four official U.S. Olympic team qualifiers.
It was only the third World Cup victory of Ferreira’s career, and the first on U.S. soil. The 27-year-old also won World Cup events in Cardrona, New Zealand, and Tignes, France, both in 2017. His two Dew Tour victories (2017, 2018) and two X Games Aspen victories (2019, 2020) do not count toward his World Cup resume.
“I’m just so grateful to be here,” Ferreira said from the finish area. “I’ve actually never done well in Copper — it’s my first win here, my first podium here ever. I had neck surgery about five months ago and I’m so grateful to everyone who played a role in getting me back to where I needed to be and so grateful to be on the podium with these real gentlemen.”
According to a FIS news release, Ferreira’s winning run consisted of a switch left 1080 tail grab, right double 1260 mute, left double 1440 with safety grab, switch right 1080 tail grab and a left double 1260 safety. Matching 1440s will likely be a must to win come the Beijing Games early next year.
Last March in the Aspen Grand Prix, the first of the Olympic qualifiers, Ferreira finished sixth overall and fourth among Americans, putting him right on the bubble for making the Olympic team as he did back in 2018, when he won Olympic silver in his first appearance at the Games.
He took advantage of his latest opportunity on Friday, scoring 93.50 on the first of his three finals runs at Copper, and that proved to be all he needed. His second and third runs weren’t shabby, scoring 85 and 86, respectively, but it was that first run that kept him ahead of reigning Olympic bronze medalist Nico Porteous (92.25 on his first run) of New Zealand and Canada’s Brendan MacKay (91.50 on his second run).
Winter Park’s Birk Irving was second among the Americans, finishing fourth with 88.25. The 22-year-old finds himself in a strong position to make his first Olympic team; he finished fifth overall at the Aspen qualifier.
Canadians Simon D’Artois (86) and Noah Bowman (85) finished fifth and sixth on Friday, while a third Canadian, Dylan Marineau, was ninth (77.25).
Nevada’s David Wise, the two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist, was seventh (83.75), with Boulder’s Lyman Currier, a 2014 Olympian, finishing eighth (82.25) and Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck rounding out the 10-man final in 10th place (14.25).
Blunck won the Aspen Grand Prix in March, putting him level with Ferreira in wins after two Olympic qualifiers. The third qualifier is next week at Dew Tour, also held at Copper Mountain, while January’s Grand Prix at Mammoth will close out the U.S. Grand Prix series.
“There was so much on the line and we’re all fighting for opportunities to get to Beijing,” Ferreira said to the AP. “It was a roller coaster of emotions this morning, but I’m super grateful to get here on the podium.”
Basalt’s Faulhaber fifth in women’s final
Basalt’s Hanna Faulhaber had a strong showing in the women’s freeski halfpipe final on Friday at Copper, finishing fifth among the eight skiers.
She landed two solid runs among her three attempts, scoring 84.75 on her first and 86.25 on her third. Faulhaber was only slightly back of fourth-place finisher Brita Sigourney (87), the top American finisher, and Estonian superstar Kelly Sildaru (88.75).
Canada’s Rachael Karker scored a strong 90 on her third and final run to sneak into second place, but finished just shy of the 90.50 scored by Eileen Gu on her first run. Gu, born in the U.S. but competing for her mother’s homeland of China, has shot to superstardom in the past year and also won last week’s big air event in Steamboat Springs.
“Today the conditions were really tough,” Gu said just before the awards ceremony. “It snowed overnight and it’s still snowing right now, so that affected me a lot and I had to make some last-minute changes to my run. I wasn’t able to do a lot of the tricks I’ve been working on early in the season. But the conditions were the same for everybody and I’m happy I was able to put the run that I did.”
Rounding out the finalists on Friday were Canada’s Cassie Sharpe, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, in sixth with 83.25; China’s Kexin Zhang in seventh with 82; and Britain’s Zoe Atkin in eighth with 81.
Faulhaber missed the first Olympic qualifier last March in Aspen after getting hurt during a training run, so finishing second among Americans to only Sigourney is a significant boost to her Olympic chances with only two qualifiers remaining. The 17-year-old has never competed at the Winter Games.
The men’s and women’s snowboard halfpipe finals are scheduled for Saturday at Copper Mountain, the final events of this Grand Prix.
Back and better than ever this year, Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club will host its annual Sports Swap on Sunday, Oct. 9, on Market Street in Willits.
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