X Games Aspen 2020 preview: Sildaru returns for another attempt at golden trifecta in women’s skiing
A mere 17, Kelly Sildaru isn’t the future of women’s freeskiing. With seven X Games medals, including three gold, already in her young career, the Estonian is very much the present. She won three medals in Aspen last winter alone, and will once again go for the nearly impossible sweep this week.
Winning three gold medals at one X Games would be quite the feat, but she’s certainly capable of pulling it off. Here’s what to look for in the women’s skiing competitions at X Games Aspen 2020:
Finals: Friday, 6:30 p.m.
2019 podium: Mathilde Gremaud (gold), Johanne Killi (silver), Kelly Sildaru (bronze)
Switzerland’s Mathilde Gremaud is the queen of big air skiing at X Games. We can say this as she’s the only woman to have won gold twice in the event (2017 in Norway, 2019 in Aspen). Women’s ski big air only made its Aspen debut in 2017, an event won by Germany’s Lisa Zimmerman. Swiss Sarah Hoefflin won in 2018 in her X Games debut.
Gremaud is back to defend her Aspen big air title this week. She’s joined by the rest of last year’s podium in Norway’s Johanne Killi — a six-time X Games medalist — and Sildaru. Sildaru has three big air medals at X Games, including Aspen silver in 2017, but she’s never won gold.
Hoefflin returns, along with reigning X Games Norway big air champ Tess Ledeux of France. Montana’s Maggie Voisin, a four-time X Games medalist, three-time X Games medalist Giulia Tanno of Switzerland and Canadian Megan Oldham, an X Games rookie, round out the competitors. Oldham won the season-long FIS slopestyle title last winter.
Finals: Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
2019 podium: Cassie Sharpe (gold), Kelly Sildaru (silver), Rachael Karker (bronze)
First, let’s mention who isn’t here: Tahoe’s Maddie Bowman. The five-time X Games Aspen gold medalist in the pipe announced Monday she is retiring and will not compete, marking a big change for women’s halfpipe skiing. Also of note, X Games veteran and two-time medalist Devin Logan isn’t competing.
Canada’s Cassie Sharpe won her first Aspen gold medal last year and is back to defend it. She’s also the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Then, of course, there is Sildaru, who won silver in the halfpipe last year in her first X Games Aspen halfpipe competition. A slopestyle specialist, Sildaru is still relatively new to the pipe so we’ll see what she has in store for her second go this year.
Canada’s Rachael Karker is back, as is Californian Brita Sigourney, who has twice won silver at X Games (2011, 2018) over her long career here, but never gold. Kexin Zhang and Fenghui Li, a pair of Chinese teenagers, Russian teen Valeriya Demidova and British teen Zoe Atkin round out a youthful group in the contest.
Finals: Sunday, 12 p.m.
2019 podium: Kelly Sildaru (gold), Sarah Hoefflin (silver), Maggie Voisin (bronze)
This has become Sildaru’s world. She’s won slopestyle gold in Aspen three times — 2016, 2017, 2019 — and likely would have won four straight had a knee injury not kept her out of the 2018 event.
But what Sildaru did in the 2019 competition likely will remain one of the greatest performances of her career for a long time. She scored 94.33 on her first run — which alone would have topped Hoefflin’s 90 that won her silver — before scoring 96.66 on her second run. Oh, she wasn’t done, scoring a nearly perfect 99 on her third and final run, the best score in women’s ski slopestyle history at X Games.
Hoefflin is back to defend her silver, and should be Sildaru’s toughest competition considering Hoefflin is the reigning Olympic gold medalist in slopestyle. Sildaru’s ACL tear kept her from competing in the Pyeongchang Olympics that winter.
The remainder of the field is essentially the same as big air: Gremaud, Killi, Ledeux, Tanno, Voisin and Oldham. Again, Oldham, won the slopestyle crystal globe last season, so it’ll be fun watching the rookie compete against the veterans. Voisin won slopestyle gold in 2018, the year Sildaru missed.
In a titanic battle of 35-year-old local superstars, John Gaston outdueled Simi Hamilton on Saturday to win the fourth iteration of the Snowmass 50 mountain bike race.
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