World, meet freeskiing.
Today, under mostly overcast skies and amid warm temps, 22 women took to the slopestyle course at Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort outside of Sochi, Russia; the contest marked freeskiing’s long awaited Olympic debut. After a two-run qualifier, the top 12 advanced to the final round. Following a two-run final, Canadian Dara Howell earned herself an Olympic gold medal(!), while American Devin Logan placed second and Canadian Kim Lamarre, third.
“I think that’s the best run I’ve ever done in my entire life,” Howell exclaimed.
The gold medal run—her first of two drops—went as follows: disaster on, blind 270 out of the down rail up top; a clean slide of the second rail in the course; switch out of the cannon feature; switch cork 7 high safety; switch bio 9 mute; and a flat 5 bow and arrow to close.
Howell topped the qualifier this morning and was thus favored heading into the final round. Post qualifier, we speculated Howell would up her game, as we had yet to see her throw her trademark switch bio 9. And come finals—she did just that. After putting that first run to her feet, Howell’s show of emotion was strong.
“I didn’t have the best training [today],” she said. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. So, to land that run, I could not be more happy with myself. I did my best. It’s amazing to come into the finish area and be proud of myself.”
Her excitement ramped up to a whole new level, though, when a score of 94.20 flashed across the big screen, and a stadium full of rowdy spectators erupted in applause.
“When I saw the score come up, just to hear the crowd go wild, that was truly a moment that I will never forget,” Howell recalled.
Moments after she received her score, she exited the finish corral, and stormed down a long, narrow corridor towards her support team. Howell threw her skis to the ground, tossed her helmet, and went full steam ahead to her father’s open arms. Standing just feet away, the image of that embrace is one I’ll hold dear for a long time to come. With tears of joy in her eyes, she said simply, “I can’t believe I just landed that. That was so fun.”
Later, Howell gave thanks to her father, her family, and her team.
“I can’t thank my coaches and everyone behind the scenes for always pushing me, and for making me be the best person I can be,” Howell said. “I did the best I could. I just want to keep pushing it and pushing the sport, that’s all you can ask for.”
Speaking to the idea of progressing the sport, she also touched on the memory of the late Sarah Burke, whose hard work was instrumental in bringing freeskiing to the Olympic stage.
“I said this week, I really hope a Canadian brings home a gold medal. Being that person, I can’t believe it. Sarah was such an inspiration to me, and everyone in freeskiing, I think she would be so proud and happy. This medal is for Sarah. She pushed the sport so much and she always wanted to see the progression and always had a smile on her face and loved what she did.”
“[This is] such an honor. I can’t believe that hard work pays off. I can’t wait to share this medal with my family and friends and everyone back home in Canada.”
Photo by Nate Abbott.
Although Howell’s score made it clear that she dominated this inaugural freeskiing event, the other ladies of slopestyle came away from the day proud. Mammoth Lakes, CA’s Devin Logan pulled in a silver medal for team USA, and was all smiles following the showdown.
“I was definitely feeling it. I had a good practice yesterday, so I just went out and had fun,” said Logan. “I’m really happy with my skiing. I landed what I wanted to land, I couldn’t feel any better.”
Logan’s silver medal run consisted of a disaster on, front 270 out of the down-flat-down up top; switch on to the up-flat rail; lip on, switch out of the down rail; switch on, shifty out of the oh-so-large flat box; right 5 Japan; switch left 5 safety; and a cork 7 tail to close.
Speaking to the immense pressure of competing on this grand stage, Logan explained, “I don’t want to get nervous. I was dancing up [at the start gate], rapping a little bit, trying to take it like any other day: like spring time, just having fun with my friends.”
Logan sat out of competition last year after having suffered a torn ACL in New Zealand, in the summer of 2012. Rather than back away from the contest scene, though, she used the opportunity to her advantage, making a foray into the world of judging; she judged events including Dew Tour, The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series and more.
“I sat out for a year and really learned some things,” Logan explained. “[Sitting out] was difficult, but I kept myself busy.”[Today], “I just had to do me,” she said. “I can’t control any of my other competitors. Just have fun. That’s the most important thing.”
D. Logan. Photo by Nate Abbott.
Another proud Canadian, Kim Lamarre of Quebec rounded out the podium. “I feel like I’m still dreaming. This is surreal,” Lamarre said. “I feel so good right now. I’m very proud of myself.”
Lamarre’s bronze medal run consisted of a disaster 270 on to the down-flat-down; back 270 out of the up-rail; switch out of the down rail; switch on to the tall box; flat 3 Japan; 540 mute; and a zero spin on the massive final jump to close.
“Having so much freedom is the greatest part about our sport,” she said. “The freedom to do what you see in your head, and do it the way you want it… the fact that I did a zero spin today and got on the podium means a lot. I’m really happy about that, and I hope the freedom of our sport will keep going.”
Lamarre also spoke to the camaraderie that runs rampant among the female field.
“We’re all friends, we’re here representing our countries, and it’s really cool to see Dara win, but at the end of the day, no matter who won, I’d be so happy for them. [These ladies] are all my great friends. I’ve been competing for like, 10 years now. I’m really close to all these girls and that’s what is really awesome about this sport: it’s a really great vibe, and I hope it stays the same in the future.”
Like Howell, Lamarre explained that the memory of Sarah impacted her performance.
“I’ve been feeling [Sarah] all week,” Lamarre said. “I feel she carried me through qualification. Then, I fell on my first run in finals and before I dropped in for my second run, I said, ‘Sarah let’s do this together.’ When I landed, I was like, ‘Yeah Sarah, we did it.’ I was so happy, I couldn’t be more honored to celebrate her in such a big way.”
“For me, I always see her smile in my mind,” she added. “That’s one of my fondest memories of her, how happy she looked. That smile was so contagious. I love smiling and I think that’s the most important thing to remember about Sarah. She was beautiful on the outside, but man, was she beautiful on the inside.”
Kim Lamarre. Photo by Nate Abbott.
Similar to Logan, Lamarre also returned to competition this season following knee surgery.
“It was intense when I tore my ACL pretty much a year ago,” Lamarre said. “I knew there would be consequences, so I wasn’t too surprised when I got the call saying I wasn’t on the [Canadian] team anymore. I asked about Sochi, I was told to focus on getting back to skiing, but I said ‘Screw this,’ I have a chance. I told myself, I’m going to put my heart into it, give it my everything, I know I can do this. Making the Olympics was an exclamation point to my return, but getting this medal, it makes this magical story even better. I can’t believe it, it’s awesome.”
Additionally, Lamarre spoke to this momentous day, and its potential impact on the sport of slopestyle skiing.
“I had a lot of fun,” she said. “I hope the world can see how much fun slope is. It makes me smile to do this in and out of competition. What we do is really fun, it’s such a fun sport and I think the world is going to see that.”
Howell also touched on the subject.
“I think we left a fantastic impression on the rest of Canada, and the rest of the world,” she said. I hope this inspires people to get into the sport, and to get into the terrain park.”
Freeskier’s coverage of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games continues this week via freeskier.com/olympics; stay tuned.
2014 Sochi Winter Games, women’s slopestyle results:
1. Dara Howell (CAN) 94.20
2. Devin Logan (USA) 85.40
3. Kim Lamarre (CAN) 85.00
4. Anna Segal (AUS) 77.00
5. Emma Dahlstrom (SWE) 75.40
6. Yuki Tsubota (CAN) 71.60
7. Katie Summerhayes (GBR) 70.60
8. Silvia Bertagna (ITA) 69.60
9. Eveline Bhend (SUI) 63.20
10. Keri Herman (USA) 50.00
11. Julia Krass (USA) 42.40
12. Camillia Berra (SUI) 30.40