Timeless Castellet returns to X Games halfpipe podium, Tomita gets first win | AspenTimes.com

Timeless Castellet returns to X Games halfpipe podium, Tomita gets first win

Spain’s Queralt Castellet is headed to her fifth Olympics next month

Spanish snowboarder Queralt Castellet stands at the bottom of the superpipe after winning the silver medal in the snowboard finals at Winter X Games in Aspen on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

There’s no quit in Queralt Castellet.

At 32, she’s one of the older snowboarders still on the circuit and even though she admitted her body was pretty beat up after the women’s halfpipe snowboard final at X Games Aspen on Saturday night, the Spanish rider gave no indication she was going to slow down.

“Keep it going,” Castellet laughed after the contest. “Every day I’m on the snowboard I learn, and every year I learn new tricks and every season I come out with better and better riding. I’m happy doing that.”

Castellet returned to the Buttermilk superpipe on Saturday and succeeded in winning her third medal in an X Games career, which goes back more than a decade. She won gold in 2020 over Japan’s Kurumi Imai (silver) and Haruna Matsumoto (bronze) — California’s Chloe Kim sat out that season — a year after winning her first silver medal in 2019.

Kim, the reigning Olympic gold medalist and five-time X Games Aspen champion, also opted out of this year’s event to rest up and train ahead of the Beijing Games next month. However, the bulk of her Olympic competition did drop into the Buttermilk superpipe on Saturday, with Sena Tomita winning gold. It was the 22-year-old Japanese rider’s first X Games medal.

Spanish snowboarder Queralt Castellet airs out of the superpipe during the women’s finals at Buttermilk in Aspen on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Behind Castellet’s silver, the 28-year-old Matsumoto won bronze for the second consecutive year, while Imai was the first one off the podium.

The competition was a battle of who could best put down a 1080 in their run, and that honor ultimately went to Tomita, who jumped over Castellet after the Spaniard had the lead after the first run. Castellet overcame a couple of gnarly crashes, one in warm ups and another during competition, to win her second career silver medal at X Games.

“It feels amazing. To me X Games is one of the most important events that there is,” Castellet said. “Even though this year is a very intense one for us … I was very excited to be in the X Games and do my best riding. The pipe was in excellent condition today. Everyone was throwing down.”

Japanese snowboarder Sena Tomita gives an interview after winning the women’s gold medal in the superpipe at Winter X Games in Aspen on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Taking fifth was California’s Maddie Mastro, who put down a solid, albeit safe, first run before unsuccessfully breaking out her double cripplers after that. She ultimately pulled out of the contest, posting later on Instagram that she “made a tough decision to not take my last run tonight due to my ankle.”

She then added that she was “excited for the next few weeks ahead.” The 21-year-old Mastro — who has two X Games medals to her name, including last year’s silver and a 2018 bronze — is perceived by many as Kim’s closest competitor come the Olympics.

Finishing sixth was 27-year-old Californian Summer Fenton, and in seventh was 20-year-old Canadian Elizabeth Hosking.

Like Mastro and arguably all of the Japanese riders, Castellet looks to give Kim a run for her money in Beijing. Castellet is headed to her fifth Olympics next month, her best previous finish having been seventh at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.

Even though she’d be 36 by the next Olympics, Castellet wouldn’t close the door on a sixth appearance and largely credits her first Olympics — a 26th-place finish at the 2006 Turin Games in Italy, the same year Aspen’s own Gretchen Bleiler won her Olympic silver medal — as lighting her fire for a long career. As it would be, the 2026 Winter Olympics will also be held in Italy.

“At that moment I was like, ‘I am going to dedicate my sweat, blood and tears and my life to that.’ And that’s what I’ve done,” Castellet said of her first Olympic appearance. “A dream just started there. My eyes opened up to the future. It was the first time I shared that experience with the girls that until then were hanging on the wall of my room.”