Big weekend of snowboarding in the books for the FIS 2021 World Championship Slopestyle and Halfpipe events.
Today the Halfpipe event went down and it was heated competition for the guys and girls.
Chloe Kim has been nearly unbeatable in the Buttermilk halfpipe since she dropped in on her first X Games competition there seven years ago. With five wins and seven podiums in seven X Games Aspen starts – including at this season’s event six weeks ago – Kim knows this venue better than just about anybody in the world right now, even at just 20 years of age. On Saturday she proved that fact once again, throwing down a new run with aplomb to walk away with her second-straight World Championships title.
Second place for the women went to Kim’s compatriot and fellow 20 year-old Maddie Mastro, who put down perhaps the best run of her career on her third and final attempt to nab silver. Packing in the hits, Mastro went frontside 900, backside 540 weddle, frontside cork 720, Haakenflip 720 stalefish, and then a stomped a massive double crippler before finishing off with a backside air for a score of 89.00 and her second career World Championships medal.
Third place and the bronze medal went to the veteran Queralt Castellet of Spain, as the 31 year-old also had to rely on her third and final run for her best score, beginning things off with a gutsy switch backside 540 into switch frontside 720 combo and ending up with a score of 87.50. Like Mastro, Castellet’s medal was the second of her World Championships career, though it came in her seventh world champs start.
The men’s competition signaled the end (for now) of the Scotty James era, at least when it comes to World Championships dominance, as the Aussie great who has owned World Champs gold for the past six years and three-straight world champs competitions was finally forced to relinquish his title at the hands of an extraordinary effort from Japan’s Yuto Totsuka.
While James put down a clean first run for a score of 90.50 and Totsuka washed out early in his first attempt, in run two Totsuka announced that he had come to play for real, stomping a top-to-bottom for a score of 93.00 and putting the pressure on James.
Starting off with a massive frontside double cork 1440, Totsuka then proceeded to drop a switch frontside double cork 1260, into a switch backside double cork 1080, then a backside double cork 1260, and finally a mind-bending frontside double cork 1260 on his final hit into the final bit of transition to launch his score up to 96.25.
Scotty James would have to settle for second place and the silver medal, with his first run of a switch backside double cork 1260, switch frontside double cork 1080, frontside 540 stalefish, backside double cork 1260, and frontside double cork 1260 the one that would stick for his fourth-straight World Championships podium.
Third place for the men went to Jan Scherrer (SUI), who carried on a tradition of bronze medals for the Swiss team that goes back three World Championships competitions now, with his teammate Patrick Burgener earning those last two medals at Sierra Nevada 2017 and Utah 2019. Burgener injured his knee just days before he was slated to fly out to Aspen and was unable to compete.
The Slopestyle event on the Saturday was one for the books with the Southern Hemi squad Sadowski and Coady representing and both landing on the podium with incredible runs put down!
Due to challenging weather during qualifications and a double-up judging format for the men there, the jury in Aspen elected to send 16 men through to a two-run finals to give more riders the opportunity for a more intensive section-by-section judging format. The women, however, qualified with the scheduled program and judging format, meaning that the top eight women would drop in on a three-run finals and that, for a change, their third run would be the final one of the competition.
This, as it turned out, set things up for one of the most dramatic World Championships gold medal wins we’ve ever seen, as defending Utah 2019 World Champion and top-qualifier Sadowski-Synnott would have to put one down in her very last run of the competition if she wanted to repeat as gold medallist, after she fell in both of her first two attempts.
And put one down she did. With the USA’s Jamie Anderson sitting in top position with a score of 81.10, Sadowski-Synnott dropped in and proceeded to go switch boardslide to regular, bluntslide 270 out, and then a perfect front boardslide 450 out on the canon rail. Through the jumps she then stomped the switch backside 900 weddle grab that had been giving her problems earlier in the competition, into a huge frontside 720 melon, and then a perfect backside 1080 weddle grab on the final kicker to earn herself a score of 85.95 and to become the first rider ever to defend a slopestyle FIS World Snowboard Championships title.
With World Championships gold really the only accolade in snowboarding that Anderson does not have to her credit, she would be forced to settle once again for silver – matching her result from the Utah 2019 event two years ago.
However, even after watching a possible gold medal taken away by Sadowski-Synnott’s final run, Anderson was gracious in her post-competition interview.
“Although I wasn’t able to connect my 1080, I am genuinely so happy for Zoi (Sadowski-Synnott),” said Anderson. “We’ve been battling all year, and that last run she put down was flawless. The future (of women’s snowboarding) is in good hands. I am proud of her and all the girls.”
The bonze medal, meanwhile, went to Aussie Tess Coady, as the final podium results mirrored the results from Wednesday’s women’s qualification. The 20 year-old put down a score of 78.13 to join the great Torah Bright as the only Australian riders to earn World Championships slopestyle medals.
Over on the the men’s side there was also plenty of drama, although in this case one of the key plot twists played out behind the scenes, as Marcus Kleveland crashed in training and was seeing limping away from the Aspen 2021 slopestyle course and headed towards the parking lot.
However, come time for his first run, there he was at the top of the course, slapping a high five to his coach, dropping in, and putting down an absolute heater of a run while showing no signs of the injury that looked like it might keep the top qualifier of heat one from making his second career World Championships start.
While his first run was excellent – putting him into top spot with a score of 86.86 that would not be beat by the first 14 riders of run two – it was in his second and final run that Kleveland really threw it down.
Starting things off with a cab hardware 270 on to 270 off, Kleveland then stomped a boardslide to 270 off on the tall flat bar, to frontside bluntslide 450 off on the canon rail. On into the jumps is where the 21 year-old really stepped it up from his first run, putting down a switch backside 1260 melon, then going back-to-back with a backside 1620 melon into a cab 1620 frontside grab to become the first and only rider into the 90s on the day with a score of 90.66.
Second place on the day went to Sebastien Toutant of Canada, as the reigning Olympic big air gold medallist put down an exceptional first run for a score of 82.53 and the silver medal in what was actually his first World Championships start. Toutant may have been on his way to challenging Kleveland with his second run, but crashed on his final hit and had to settle for silver.
Finally, the bronze medal for the men went to the rider that some refer to as “Your favourite snowboarder’s favourite snowboarder,” as Rene Rinnekangas of Finland brought his inimitable style to the World Championships stage and earned a score of 82.51 – just .02 back of Toutant – to grab the last spot on the podium.