Aaron Blunck moved to the top of the U.S. Olympic qualification standings with a win in the halfpipe Friday at the U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix at Copper Mountain.
Blunck sealed the victory in the FIS World Cup event with Frenchman Kevin Rolland finishing second and Gus Kenworthy, of Telluride, taking third, vaulting himself into the third qualification spot. Previous Olympic qualifying points leader David Wise dropped into second place in the standings after he failed to qualify for Friday’s final.
After Friday’s victory and his second place at Dew Tour Breckenridge, Blunck, a Ski Club Vail athlete, has met the minimum Olympic qualification criteria of two top-three finishes, but with three more qualification events left, his Olympic spot is not yet secured. Blunck was also given the FIS World Cup yellow bib as he leads the World Cup halfpipe points so far this season after Friday and the New Zealand World Cup event.
“Words are not even flowing out of my mouth right now,” said Blunck. “I don’t even know what to say. Kevin Rolland threw the craziest run I’ve ever seen in halfpipe to date and Gus Kenworthy came out with some serious style. I can’t believe I was able to hang out on top of those competitors.”
Cold temperatures and falling snow made for challenging conditions, slowing down the athletes in the halfpipe and making it difficult to transition between tricks.
“Having my parents here is a huge support for sure,” added Blunck. “They try to make it to every event they can and for them to be here for the time I won is huge. I can’t believe that they were here. I’m so happy.”
RESULTS: Men’s Final Results
Sigourney Gains on Bowman with Win
With the win in the women’s event, California’s Brita Sigourney gained ground on Tahoe’s Maddie Bowman in the U.S. Olympic qualification standings after her victory in Friday’s halfpipe final at the U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix. Sigourney and Bowman took first and second in the FIS World Cup event with Marie Martinod of France finishing third.
Sigourney led with a score of 85.00 after a solid first run and Bowman couldn’t match it, remaining in second place throughout the competition. Sigourney put down her second run and finished with an 86.6.
“I’m so excited and so relieved,” said Sigourney. “I know that January is going to be a huge month full of competitions and I was really hoping to relieve some of the stress there by getting these two out of the way and getting some good results under my belt. So I’m just happier than I could ever be right now.”
Vermont’s Devin Logan took the next spot for the U.S. in fourth, pushing her up to fourth in the qualification standings. Logan was given the FIS World Cup yellow bib as she is the World Cup points leader in halfpipe so far this season after her results Friday and at the New Zealand World cup event. A multi-talented freeskier, Logan also competed in the slopestyle qualifier Friday but did not to qualify for the final.
Both Bowman and Sigourney met the minimum Olympic qualification criteria Friday by earning their second top-three finish, but with three qualification events to go, the Olympic team has not yet been determined.
“It feels pretty good. I’m pretty excited. But I’m just going to keep pushing and trying to do my best at every event,” said Bowman. “The conditions were super snowy, but Luke, being a boss, always pulling through and getting our skis super fast. It wasn’t too big of a deal.”
RESULTS: Women’s Final Results
Goepper Clinches Olympic Spot at Copper
Nick Goepper became the first skier to secure a spot on the first-ever U.S. Freeskiing Olympic team Saturday with his second-place finish in the slopestyle final at the U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix at Copper Mountain. Goepper was the top American finisher behind Norway’s Andreas Haatveit, who took home the FIS World Cup victory while Australian Russ Henshaw took third.
Goepper’s two top-three finishes and two victories over the U.S. field make him mathematically untouchable going into the three remaining qualifiers. Like in the Dew Tour, no other American male got on the podium, which makes the next few competitions very important for the remainder of the U.S. men hoping to get an Olympic team spot.
“It’s not grueling at all. It’s a dream come true,” said Goepper. “It’s super fun. The Olympics add a bit more pressure, but we’re just out here trying to get creative and have fun. … I’m going to approach the next contests with the same confidence and the same preparation that I came here with. No pressure, I’m just trying to ski and have fun and land my runs.”
McRae Williams, of Park City, was the next highest scoring U.S. skier with an 84.20, which earned him fourth-place followed by favorite Bobby Brown, who finished fifth. William’s finish put him in third place in the Olympic qualification standings, one spot above Tom Wallisch, who is currently ranked fourth and placed eighth in Saturday’s final.
RESULTS: Men’s Final Results
Stevens, Eliassen 2-3 at Visa Grand Prix at Copper
U.S. Freeskiing rookie Darian Stevens, of Missoula, Mont., took second and the top American spot at Saturday’s slopestyle final, while Utah’s Grete Eliassen came in third at the Copper Grand Prix, and Olympic qualifier.
“A podium means a lot, because now I can keep growing, hopefully get a couple more and hopefully be on my way to Sochi,” said Stevens. “I’m just trying to get all my stuff back together. Last year I was out for a knee injury, and this is only my third competition since I’ve been out. So I’ve just been working on getting it all back.”
“I cannot believe it,” said Eliassen. “Just coming off the Dew Tour where I broke my helmet and I was just like, ‘What is happening?’ I just stayed true to myself and had great family and support here to help me. There are a lot of girls that aren’t here right now so I just wanted to ski for them and do the best that I could.”
Dara Howell, of Canada, won the women’s FIS World Cup event, and fifteen-year-old rookie Maggie Voisin, from Whitefish, Mont., finished fourth, boosting into the top of the Olympic qualification standings.
Stevens and Eliassen took one of two required podium finishes to qualify for the first-ever U.S. Freeskiing Olympic team. Previous leader Devin Logan, who won the first slopestyle qualifier of the season at Breck, did not qualify for the final and dropped to a second-place tie with Darian Stevens in the standings.
RESULTS: Women’s Final Results