ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — When it comes to skiing in the pipe, the one award missing from Maddie Bowman’s trophy case was an Olympic gold medal. She took care of that Thursday night at the inaugural women’s Olympic halfpipe competition at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
With a first-run lead under her belt, Bowman put down an incredible second run to earn the winning score of 89.00, spinning right and left side 900s while throwing in a last-hit switch 720 for good measure.
“I planned to do that run the whole time, and I’m glad I could put it down the way I did,” said Bowman. “I don’t think it’s possible to put this into words. I am so happy. It’s crazy.”
She, along with her American teammates, Brita Sigourney, Annalisa Drew and Angeli Vanlaanen, represented one-third of the final competition field (four of 12). The others failed to reach the podium, however, as France’s Marie Martinod claimed silver with a big, smooth second run. Japan’s Ayana Onozuka took the bronze medal.
It was an emotional result for Sigourney, who suffered a tough crash in the first run — one from which she did not get up very fast — and a hand drag in the second run. Sigourney was the second-best qualifier and medal hopeful for the U.S. She placed sixth with her second-run effort of 76.00.
For many athletes, the legacy of the late Sarah Burke, who fought to get this event included in the Olympic Winter Games, was on their minds.
“I think her lasting legacy is just to go out — ski as hard as you can, love what you do and love life,” said Bowman. “Sarah did that. She was an amazing skier but she was an amazing person. I think every girl here would embody that and it takes all of us to put on her shoes.”
“I came back to compete at the Olympic Games because one night Virginie (Faivre) and Sarah (Burke) came to my place and told me that halfpipe is going to be in the Olympics, for sure, you have to come,” said silver medalist Martinod. “I said, ‘You’re kidding me, that’s nonsense. I’ll never be able to do it.’ But then, I thought I can’t watch it on the couch on television.”
The U.S. has now won eight gold medals in freestyle skiing, more than any other country. The Stars and Stripes have also won three of four new freeskiing events, including men’s and ladies halfpipe and men’s slopestyle.