Sweet 16 for slopestyle champ
Vail Daily staff writer
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Sixteen-year-old Jamie Anderson became the youngest athlete ever to win a Winter X Games gold medal Saturday.
In her fourth games in as many years, the Lake Tahoe, Calif., snowboarder won the women’s slopestyle with a score of 85.33 points.
“I started [X Games] when I was 13,” Anderson said. “My first year here, I was so nervous – there were all these pros and crazy people. But now, I know a lot more people and I’m way more comfortable with it.”
Anderson, a high school junior whose trip to Aspen forced her to miss nearly a week’s worth of academics, left her comfort zone Saturday, at least briefly, by going big at the bottom of her second run.
“Honestly, on the first run I did stuff I knew I could do consistently because I just wanted to land,” Anderson said. “On the second run, I stepped it up and tried pretty much the same run, but I tried a seven at the bottom and I’ve only done two sevens in my life. It was pretty scary.”
By the time she attempted her first ever 720 in competition, Anderson had already given herself some wiggle room with a strong first run. In fact, as the event’s final competitor, Anderson knew she had first place in the bag regardless of how she performed.
“It was definitely a comfort run, but not really any runs are comfort,” Anderson said. “You have to make sure you land because there’s still a big danger of getting hurt.”
Hana Beaman’s second-place finish and Chanelle Sladics’ third, made Saturday’s podium all Californian.
Beaman, who claimed Winter X slopestyle silver for the third time in her career, has yet to reach the elusive top spot.
“You’re always going out there trying to win gold,” Beaman said. “So it’s still cool, silver is still awesome, but you’re always pulling for gold.”
Beaman (78.33 points) finished second at last year’s X Games, where Anderson took the bronze.
Sladics (76.33), who has spent nearly every day for the past few months riding at Keystone, seemed thrilled with her first X Games medal.
“This is the top,” Sladics said. “This is X Games. There’s so much hype and there’s so much media; The park is just perfect – they spent eight weeks building it; everyone comes out as prepared as they can be, there’s no better event to podium.”
Sladics, who improved on her fifth-place finish at X Games 10, competed Saturday despite suffering a painful back injury during a morning practice session.
“It’s bad,” she said. “I know whatever it is, I’m out for a while. I’m going to the hospital after this to figure it out.”
Due to the importance of the X Games and the support of her family and friends, Sladics said she simply couldn’t walk away.
“I was sitting at the top and thinking to myself how bad I wanted it,” she said. How bad I wanted to just do my run. I was in so much pain, but I was just like, ‘I gotta do this. Heart over hurt – it’s on.'”
Silvia Mittermueller of Germany and Marie-France Roy of Canada rounded out Saturday’s top five.
Mikaela Shiffrin did a lot of soul searching after she didn’t win a medal and didn’t finish three of her five individual races at last year’s Beijing Olympics after entering the games amid enormous expectations.