Sadowski-Synnott gets New Zealand’s 1st Winter Olympic gold, Anderson off podium
The Associated Press
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Zoi Sadowski-Synnott captured New Zealand’s first gold medal in Winter Olympic history, stomping down a pressure-packed run on her last trip down the mountain Sunday to win the title in women’s snowboard slopestyle.
The 20-year-old attacked the supersized course with a challenging, progressive run built for 2022 despite hardpacked snow and bone-cold wind chills that made things difficult on most of the 12 finalists. That included two-time defending champion Jamie Anderson, who finished ninth.
Sadowski-Synnott went into her last of three runs trailing American Julia Marino, but came up big.
“Greatest run of my life,” she said.
She landed a double-cork 1080 on the second-to-last jump, including a solid grab of the middle of the board that she held for more than long enough for the judges to see clearly. And then she repeated the double cork in a different direction, the way she did in her victory at X Games Aspen last month when she became the first woman to pull it off.
She raised her hands in the air after landing, knowing what she’d done. Marino, who won silver, and third-place finisher Tess Coady of Australia knew it, too. They tackled her at the finish line to celebrate.
“Pretty sick,” Sadowski-Synnott said of the reaction.
A few minutes later, the scoreboard confirmed the outcome, and New Zealand had its first Winter Games victory — brought home by an Australian-born shredder with an American mother and a Kiwi father. They moved to Wanaka, New Zealand, when Zoi was 6.
For the second straight Olympics, this was not a top-to-bottom display of the finest women’s snowboarding action. In Pyeongchang four years ago, a harsh, shifting wind turned the contest into a demolition derby.
Of the 36 runs on Sunday, 25 were aborted either because of falls or speed issues that made the hardest tricks too risky to attempt. But the top riders came through big despite the rock-hard snowpack and a wind chill of minus-13 at the start of the contest.
“It kind of looked like no one had done anything for four years last time,” Coady said. “So it was pretty sweet to just, you know, just like, show everyone how far we’ve come.”
Tahoe’s Anderson came away with her second gold in 2018 despite using tricks that were far from state of the art. In this one, though, she never got her bearings. She fell on two runs and pulled out of a jump in the middle of her second.
“I feel so sad not to be able to put down a run,” Anderson said. “But I feel relieved that it’s over because it’s a really high-stress week here.”
Sadowski-Synnott’s winning score of 92.88 was the only mark over 90.
It was only two weekends ago in perfect conditions in Aspen that Sadowski-Synnott became the first woman to land back-to-back double cork 1080s as part of her gold-medal performance. She won big air, as well, and will have the chance to do the same at the Olympics — that contest is set for Feb. 15. She won Olympic bronze in that event four years ago.
For now, though, there’s plenty to celebrate in New Zealand, which long has served as a training base for riders in the Northern Hemisphere who need to get work in during June, July and August.
So, yes, it has snow, and halfpipes, and mountain resorts. And now, a gold medal, too.
“Absolute disbelief,” Sadowski-Synnott said. “It probably means more to me to win New Zealand’s first winter gold.”