ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — It took perhaps the best women’s slopestyle run of all time to knock American Devin Logan into silver medal position at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park Tuesday. That was the buzz in the finish area after Canadian Dara Howell’s first-run performance, which earned her a score of 94.20 in the opening freeskiing event of the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
Howell’s teammate Kim Lamarre rounded out the podium in the bronze medal position, making for a six total medals for the Canadian Freestyle Skiing Association thus far in these Games, which meets the team’s original goal, according to the organization’s CEO Peter Judge, with several medal events remaining.
For Howell, the big separator proved to be the cleanliness of her run and the switch misty nine off the second jump.
“I think that’s the best run I’ve ever done in my entire life,” she said.
At times, the 23-year-old looked as if she was skiing on a different course than her competitors, spinning on and off features on the top rail section before launching into a bottom jump line that included a switch 720, the aforementioned 900 and a huge rodeo 540 with a “bow and arrow” grab on the final jump.
Course conditions were spring-like, which created concerns for some skiers as softer landings left holes in the snow.
“I think it was the variability (that was problematic for some),” said Judge “because when they were training it was that beautiful kind of ego snow, soft and comfortable … and then you show up the next morning and it’s rock hard and it’s really fast. Then, as you go through the day, they’re expecting it to be fast, and it’s slowing, slowing, slowing. … Making that psychological change is sometimes a very tough shift to make.”
Possibly as a result of the slowing snow conditions, there was a scary crash for Canadian Tuki Tsubota, who didn’t have enough distance and knuckled out on the final hit. She is suspected to have sustained an injury to her jaw, but finished sixth nonetheless and is said to be doing “OK.”
The ladies on the podium had no complaints about the snow.
“Everybody loves spring skiing and the course just worked for me today,” Howell said. “I just want to keep pushing it and keep pushing the sport, and I think every girl out there wants to do the same thing.”
For Logan, who turns 21 next week, there were smiles, hugs and tears of joy. She skied to a distant 85.40 point score, but it was enough for the second best performance of the day, which like Howell’s, came in her first run through the course. Logan wasn’t quite able to stomp her second run, but celebrated her crash off the third and final hit of the Olympics with a “penguin slide” into the finish area, not something that necessarily helped her with the judges but certainly earned cheers from the crowd.
“I was definitely feeling it — had a good practice yesterday and just went out and had fun and glad I landed some runs,” said Logan, who did not compete last season due to injury. “I landed what I wanted to land.”
Asked if she was disappointed that she was unable to stomp the final run to challenge Howell, Logan said with a completely straight face, “(My second run) went great. I had a penguin slide at the end. I was styling, man.”
For all the athletes, there was a celebratory atmosphere in this inaugural Olympic freeskiing event — the late Sarah Burke in the hearts and minds of many, including the winner.
“I said the other day, I really hope a Canadian brings home a gold medal — that it will be for Sarah,” said Howell. “This medal is definitely for Sarah. She pushed the sport so much and she always wanted to see the progression and to see girls throwing kind of what the guys were throwing. She always had a smile on her face and loved what she did, and today that’s what I did.”
American Keri Herman, a 31-year-old veteran of the women’s freeskiing, finished 10th — not the result she was hoping for — but she was nonetheless elated to be competing at the Olympics in Russia.
“You win some; you lose some. I feel like I still won,” Herman said. “I consider myself a winner. I mean, I’m an Olympian. This rules. … Oh my god, this is going to bring our sport to the world.”
See more photos from today’s competition in our gallery.
RESULTS — Women’s ski slopestyle