McMorris, Anderson lead slopestyle qualifying at Burton U.S. Open in Vail
VAIL — After landing an impressive run on the Burton U.S. Open Snowboard Championships slopestyle course on Wednesday, March 7, Yuki Kadono thought back to 2015.
“Not often do you get to be thrown on other riders’ shoulders, being praised like that,” the Japanese snowboarder said, through the aid of a translator. “It was one of the most memorable moments of my career.”
Kadono finished fourth on Wednesday, which left him plenty of breathing room heading into the finals on Friday, March 9.
“There’s not much wind here, and the snow is soft as well,” Kadono said. “The weather is great and I’m able to do the best run I possibly can.”
Canadian slopestyle sensation Mark McMorris was the top qualifier on Wednesday, displaying impressive control through the rail sliding section of the course and landing a few massive tricks on the jumps.
“It’s a little steeper than most of the slope courses we’re on,” McMorris said.
Norwegian snowboarder Marcus Kleveland led the field for much of the competition before getting bumped into second by McMorris.
“It’s a speedy course, but the rails are pretty straightforward,” Kleveland said. “I like the course a lot.”
YOUTH OF TODAY
Kleveland, 18, was among the youngest of athletes to make it through to Friday’s top-10 final. In a contest that has three-and-a-half decades of history giving younger riders a chance to shine, Wednesday’s semifinals held true to the Burton U.S. Open’s roots.
Japanese rider Takeru Otsuka, 16, qualified fifth. Behind him was 20-year-old Fridtjof Tischendorf, of Norway, in sixth. Chris Corning, 18, finished third.
Snowboarder Lyon Farrell, 19, of Hawaii, got a chance to compete despite coming to the contest as an alternate. The fact that Farrell came in from Maui to Vail without any guarantees that he would get to compete was a showcase of how important the Burton U.S. Open is to snowboarders.
“I was crossing my fingers, hoping it would happen,” Farrell said. “I just love the event.”
While he didn’t make finals, Farrell said he was happy he got a chance to show his slopestyle prowess to the snowboarding world at the Burton U.S. Open.
“I was kind of bummed I couldn’t put it down, but I had so much fun out here,” he said.
On the women’s side, two-time Olympic slopestyle gold medalist Jamie Anderson took the lead on her first run for a high score of 83.75.
“Today has been really fun,” said Anderson. “It’s actually the best course conditions of the season.”
Defending U.S. Open champion Anna Gasser, of Austria, grabbed second place with an 80.95. Her technical run included the creative use of a narrow takeoff in the upper rail section throwing a huge backside 180, plus a lofty backside 720 mute in the jump section. American Julia Marino took the third spot earning a 75.85.
DEPTH OF SNOWBOARDING
In the large men’s field, which features 32 of the most talented snowboarders on the planet, the depth of snowboarding is sometimes better showcased in semifinals than finals at the Burton U.S. Open. The riders who don’t make the top-10 can show as much progression as those who make it through.
Belgian snowboarder Sebbe DeBuck failed to land a clean run on Wednesday, but used the opportunity to showcase tricks not often seen in a slopestyle contest. His double front flip was a crowd favorite.
“I’ve never done it in a slopestyle run, so I thought why not do it here where it will be seen by other snowboarders,” Debuck said. “The U.S. Open was a perfect place to show it, and show that there’s other stuff besides triple corks and 14s.”
In 2015, a relatively unknown Japanese rider landed back-to-back backside triple cork 1620s on the final two jumps of the Burton U.S. Open slopestyle course in what is still stands in many snowboarders’ minds as best slopestyle run of all time.
Upon being hoisted onto the shoulders of the other snowboarders waiting for him in the finish coral, Yuki Kadono knew his moment had arrived.
“I was only 17 at the time, I was young, and I hadn’t had many great results in a slopestyle contest,” Kadono said on Wednesday. “I thought to myself, ‘What can I do to be in first place,’ and that’s the routine I came up with … Every year since then I’ve came back here with high motivation and high expectations for myself to be in the best podium position that I possibly can.”
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.