Carlson finally prevails in men’s ski slopestyle |

Carlson finally prevails in men’s ski slopestyle

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Michael Faas/The Aspen TimesSammy Carlson performs a trick during Saturday's ski slopestyle competition at the Winter X Games in Aspen.

ASPEN – Sammy Carlson said he is trying to take a more casual approach to this year’s Winter X Games. He is making a concerted effort to relax and enjoy the moment.

The objective remains the same, however.

“There’s not a day that goes by in my life when I don’t think about winning the X Games,” the 22-year-old freeskier said.

After three consecutive narrow misses in ski slopestyle here, Carlson’s time finally came Saturday at Buttermilk.

The Hood River, Ore., product, a bronze medalist last year and silver medalist in 2007 and 2009, established the mark to beat early, posting a score of 93.33 on a first run that drew applause from the both an animated crowd and fellow competitors.

Eight others tried to best the effort to no avail, as Carlson added gold to his collection of Winter X hardware. Australian Russ Henshaw, the top qualifier, settled for second with a 90.66, and 2008 slopestyle champion Andreas Hatveit rounded out the podium with a 90.

Breckenridge’s Bobby Brown, who last year made Winter X history with gold-medal performances in slopestyle and big air, fell on his final two runs and finished fourth.

“This feels so good. I can’t believe it,” Carlson said. “The level of skiing is going through the roof, and to be on top right now is such an honor.”

Carlson’s two-hand touch on the “Joy Stick” feature highlighted a flawless run through the X course’s upper rails section. Soon after, he landed a right-side double flatspin 900, a trick he said he learned during Friday’s practice session.

“When I came out of that trick, I was like, ‘Boom. Here we go,'” said Carlson, competing in his sixth X Games. “The rest of the run was just, I don’t know, a super peaceful feeling.

“I felt so good [today]. I had crazy good energy coming all day. … I kind of got nervous before my run, then when I was up there I was just being calm.”

After landing his final jump off the 70-foot “Money Booter” cleanly, Carlson flashed a wide grin as he skidded to a stop. Nearby, past slopestyle podium finishers Jossi Wells and T.J. Schiller cheered.

Henshaw was impressed, too.

“When I saw him 450 on and 630 off [one of the rails], I knew my rails weren’t quite as strong,” he said. “I tried stepping it up. I’m stoked.”

Henshaw, second after the first run, struggled to better his score. On his third attempt, he squandered a chance to knock Carlson out of gold-medal position after failing to land a 1260 on the final hit.

“Oh, man. Definitely,” Carlson responded when asked if he was nervous watching Henshaw’s run. “If one man could take it from me, it was him. He’s an animal and skis so good.”

Hatveit, third after the first run, executed the competition’s only 1440 on his second attempt, but he landed low on the transition and could not generate enough speed to tackle the final two jumps.

He rebounded with a clean final run that included a double corked 1080, stylish switch 900 and a right-side double corked 1260 – leading one bystander to quip: “Grandpa’s still got some spring in those legs.”

“I was aiming for third, so I’m pumped,” Hatveit said afterward.

“[The progression in this sport] has been crazy. Last year wasn’t even close to this. This is ridiculous.”

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