Local shines at Open
Aspen, CO ColoradoCOPPER MOUNTAIN – Stories like Anna Segal’s are what the U.S. Freeskiing Open is all about.As a first-time, non-qualified Open competitor, the Australian skier came into Copper as something of an unknown entity. After winning the women’s slopestyle on Friday with a score of 83.25, Segal will leave Summit County having made a name for herself.”That’s the great thing about the Open,” said runner-up Michelle Parker (80.5 points), who took third place last year. “You get some new names up here and it’s awesome. I’m so proud for (Segal).”Segal, who lives in Aspen, seemed like an unsuspecting champion.”I’m surprised,” Segal said following the awards ceremony, where she received $2,500. “I didn’t actually watch any of the other girls’ runs because I don’t do that before I go, so I didn’t know what I was up against. I was hoping for a top five and I would have been completely happy with that.”Segal nearly missed Thursday’s qualifying heat, which she won with a score of 84.75, because of a painful practice injury she sustained hours before it started.”I worked pretty hard and I smashed my face,” she said of the two days of competition. “I feel like I’ve kind of fought all the way here.”Segal likely grabbed the judges’ attention when she pulled a rare upside-down trick she referred to as a loop.”I suppose it could be considered a flip because your head is under your feet,” she explained. “I’ve been doing them for quite a while, so I’m quite confident on them.”Parker, who lives in California’s Lake Tahoe area, said she wasn’t exactly sure which trick set her apart from everyone but Segal.
“It’s tough to say,” Parker said. “I just tried some new tricks I learned the other day. … My rail section on my second run was a lot better; I got what I wanted to. The jumps were a little flaily. I came up a little short on them, but I stomped my run and was stoked.”
In a tribute to her consistency, Parker’s combined score was a whopping 160.5. The next-best combined score, 140, belonged to Segal.Third place went to Kristi Leskinen (77 points), who persevered through an injury of her own.”I really hurt myself on that first run,” Leskinen said of her back injury, which occurred when she fell off a box rail. “I was back at the top for my second run and everyone was telling me not to go, but I couldn’t, I had to go. Because this competition only comes once a year, if there’s any possibility to win, you have to try. … I somehow made it to the bottom on my feet and now I can’t walk.”Following her second run, Leskinen laid down near the finish area to rest her back. It is still unknown whether the California-based athlete will compete in Sunday’s halfpipe competition, which she has pre-qualified for.”That’s two days from now, so maybe I’ll skip practice (Saturday) and go get it checked out,” she said. “We’ll just go from there. If it’s muscle pain, I can deal with it. If it’s something else, I need to take a break.”
Leskinen, along with 11th-place finisher Sarah Burke, was one of the original women to compete in the U.S. Open. Both women competed at the Vail-hosted event in 2000.”Do I have to tell you how many I’ve been in?” Burke asked with a laugh. “I’m the grandma of the sport here.”Burke, who has one Open slopestyle runner-up and multiple halfpipe victories under her belt, fell on both of her runs.”I had the run of my dreams lined up,” Burke said. “I landed it in practice and then just couldn’t pull it together in the finals.”Burke’s ski popped off during her second run as she tried to land a rare 900.
Like several other Open veterans, Leskinen said she has noticed the rising talent in women’s freesking over the past few years.”There’s a whole lot more girls that are trying to do a lot of crazy tricks,” Leskinen said. “It’s really great to see and it’s pushing a level.””I’m amazed every time I come here,” said fifth-place finisher Grete Eliassen, who is competing in her fourth U.S. Open. “It’s like, ‘Wow, where did you guys come from?'”Perhaps Anna Segal will be wondering the same thing next year.Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at email@example.com.
This wasn’t my best work. I still stand by my original picks to win each of the snowboard contests at X Games Aspen 2023, but fate chose poorly. The main lesson? Don’t pick against Mark McMorris, Marcus Kleveland or Scotty James, unless you have a very good reason.