Chris Corning, Red Gerard qualify for world championship slopestyle final
Colorado snowboarders Chris Corning and Red Gerard were two of the 16 riders able to battle daunting, fickle weather conditions at Buttermilk Ski Area on Wednesday in Aspen to qualify through to Friday’s slopestyle finals at the International Ski & Snowboard Federation Freeski and Snowboard World Championships.
Corning qualified through in the eighth and final spot in his heat with a 78.25 while Gerard’s 80.25 was sixth in his heat. Corning and Gerard are two of four Americans, along with Californian Dusty Henricksen (83.50) and Hawaiian Lyon Farrell (88.50), who will compete against top qualifiers Marcus Kleveland of Norway (86.50) and Leon Vockensperger of Germany (92.25) in Friday’s final, which will broadcast on the Olympic Channel.
Other top riders to make it through to the final include Japan’s Hiroaki Kunitake (85.00), Norway’s Torgeir Bergrem (81.75) and Canada’s Sebastien Toutant (81.50) and Max Parrot (80.00).
Corning said Wednesday’s action involved a lot of nerves as weather was ever-changing and he dropped in relatively late in the heat. Riding in the tricky weather, the goofy-footed Corning converted his cab — riding opposite foot forward and rotating toward his board’s front side — 1260-degree spin to a 900 just to land it in the wind on his first run.
Corning did so on a course that did not feature the third and final money-booter jump, the largest on the Buttermilk course. The removal of the jump — due to concerns about whether riders could clear it — came amid a weather delay. The weather meant last-minute tweaks in planning, namely what to do and how big to go on the jumps.
“We had so much time to wait, so it was a little bit of a mental game,” said Corning, the defending slopestyle world champion.
Gerard said he got through the weather delay by taking some laps and hanging out with friends at the top of the course. In the end, the Olympic champion was happy to put down a run that got him through.
“That’s the only way to do it — to try to have fun and not think about it too much,” Gerard said.
Henricksen, who won X Games slopestyle gold last month at the Buttermilk site, described the weather as “super weird,” resulting in each subsequent rider taking different speed into the course. Farrell, the U.S.’s top qualifier on the day, said he’s riding the best he ever has inspired by Henricksen and the rest of the American team.
“There’s camaraderie on the team and positive momentum moving forward,” Farrell said.
In the women’s competition, American legend Jamie Anderson recovered from a scary fall on her first run to qualify in second place with a 90.75. On Friday, Anderson will challenge top qualifier Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand (94.50) as the only American in an eight-woman field that also will feature Anna Gasser of Austria (89.25).
“It was hard this morning,” Anderson said. “So I’m just stoked to put one down.”
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Oregon’s Laurenne Ross and New Castle’s Alice McKennis Duran both announced their retirement in recent days and celebrated together during Saturday’s downhill. McKennis Duran is a local namesake who grew up skiing at Sunlight in Glenwood and formerly trained with the AVSC.