Hometown favorite Olenick comes up just short in title defense
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” If only she’d kept her chin up. Then her hands wouldn’t have touched the ground. And if Megan Olenick’s hands hadn’t slightly grazed the snow following a massive 900 ” the only one thrown by a female skier all day ” well, then, the 19-year-old from Carbondale likely would have won her second straight Aspen/Snowmass Open slopestyle crown Saturday at Buttermilk.
When you finish .5 points behind the winner, it’s only natural to scrutinize the tiniest details, said Olenick, who lost to Keri Herman of Breckenridge ” 76.5 points to 76.
“I’m still stoked,” said Olenick, who kept her chin up when the final scores were announced. “I mean a  is what I wanted to do for the day. I got it done. I think if I would have just stood up a little more at the end, maybe. I don’t really know. I’m not a judge. It’s out of my hands.”
Park City, Utah’s Ashley Battersby, who sat out last year’s Open after she blew out her knee in January, took third.
Herman, 24, wasn’t nearly as impressive as Olenick on the course’s final jump, but won over judges with her fluid, technical maneuvers on the course’s rails and her consistent landings.
She also did a 540 over the step-up gap on both of her runs ” a feature most female competitors opted to skip ” and incorporated grabs into two 360s, including one where she spun in her unnatural direction.
Herman, originally from Bloomington, Minn., was shocked when it was announced she’d knocked off the hometown favorite.
“I had no idea I could even compete with these people,” she said. “I’m just really excited. This course was intimidating, but also fun.”
The runner-up finish ” and the 900 ” was a confidence booster for Olenick, who also is returning from injury this season. In April, she tore the ACL and MCL in her right knee.
After surgery and months of rehabilitation, she was back on snow in November, but didn’t begin jumping until December. And, at last month’s U.S. Freeskiing Open at Copper Mountain, she was sidelined with a severe bone bruise.
“I didn’t actually think about my knees at all, which was good,” said Olenick, who at 6-foot-3 is taller than both her older brothers, Peter and Michael ” both of whom skipped this year’s Open. “Usually, it’s a lot of mental stuff in the head, but today I wasn’t worried about it.”
All three podium finishers agreed women’s skiing slopestyle should be added to next year’s Winter X Games. Women’s skiing superpipe was added three years ago, but so far women’s slopestyle has been shut out.
“I’m surprised they don’t have it,” said Herman, who picked up $1000 for the win. “Maybe they will sometime. It was really fun getting on the jumps you see on TV.”
“It’s really frustrating,” added Olenick, who said she rarely skis the halfpipe. “I heard they might have it next year. I’m going to try and learn halfpipe tomorrow morning.”
Telluride’s Hannah Smith finished fourth, while Katie Williamson of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., took fifth.
Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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