Olenick fourth in slopestyle at U.S. Freeskiing Open | AspenTimes.com
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Olenick fourth in slopestyle at U.S. Freeskiing Open

Shauna FarnellVail correspondent
FSO Olenick, Peter PU 1-20
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VAIL -It became immediately clear among the 16 men’s finalists in slopestyle Friday at the U.S. Freeskiing Open that a few big spins were not going to be enough to make the podium. Three full spins (1080) on a jump … not enough. Three and a half (1260) … not enough. Corey Vanular didn’t expect to come out of the slopestyle contest with a victory and $7,000. But the 17-year-old from Toronto, Ontario, launched onto the flat-down rail at the top of the course with a 630 spin – something he’s never done before in a contest – and grabbed the judges’ attention. He won with 88 points.”To tell you the truth, no, I didn’t’ expect to [win] at all,” said Vanular, who took third in last year’s U.S. Freeskiing Open superpipe and gold at last year’s Winter Gravity Games pipe contest. The 630 trick was in Vanular’s “maybe” bag.”I had that trick unlocked before the contest, but I didn’t know if I could get it around with no lip on the rail,” he said. “But it worked out pretty well.”

Defending champion Charles Gagnier of Quebec, who also took gold in last year’s Winter X Games slopestyle contest, couldn’t even pull off a podium this year, despite his cork 900 unnatural, switch right-side 1080 and switch left-side 1080. He took 10th and admitted that the competition has turned up a notch this season.”I think the guys are more technical this year, like big spins and spinning both ways,” he said. “Guys are getting good at spinning a lot, but unnatural (the opposite of their comfortable spinning direction). They impress me.”Sammy Carlson,17, from Mt. Hood, Ore., took second place with 85.8 points, and veteran Swedish skier Jon Olsson, who has been earning a reputation as the perpetual bronze medalist, took third Friday with 82.2 points, barely scraping by Aspen’s Peter Olenick, who finished fourth with 82 points.Carlson, who took fourth in the Gravity Games slopestyle contest, saw that a string of 720-1080-900 switch spins might not be enough to distinguish himself. So he did the same sequence his second run, but decided to try a 1280 on the last hit for the first time ever.”My friends told me to,” he said. “I’m so happy, it’s crazy.”

A.J. Burton finished fifth Friday, with 2004 champion TJ Schiller in sixth and two-time X Games gold medalist Simon Dumont seventh. Derek Spong took eighth and Matt Philipi ninth.Wickes goes bigAs pointed out by 15-year-old Aspen local Whitney Wickes, the key component of a successful slopestyle run is a dose of courage.”You have to be brave,” said Wickes, who finished seventh in Friday’s women’s slopestyle final. “It takes hitting the [big] jumps and having trained a lot and being comfortable with it. You also need people cheering you on.”Defending champion Grete Eliassen, a partial Norwegian who resides in Park City, Utah, put another victory onto her tally board with a 74-point run. Freeskiing veteran Sarah Burke of Toronto, Ontario, was right at her heels in second with 73.6 points and Squaw Valley, Calif.’s Michelle Parker was even closer with 73.4 points for third.

Vail local Claudia Bouvier finished fourth with 69.2 points.Eliassen, who also took gold in last year’s Winter X Games superpipe contest, felt added pressure going into Friday’s contest as the girl to beat.”I was really nervous at the start,” said Eliassen, who sat in the snow and tore her boots off after her run to alleviate pain she was having throughout the day in her shins. “I’m really tense in my body. It wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be, but it was still really good.”


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