Jacob Wester Wins London Freeze Big Air
Straight airs gave way to backflips which led the way for cork 720s and double flips. First on the docket was qualifiers. 33 riders from around the world, including five British riders lined up for the two-run-best-score-counts format. Double cork 1080s were the overarching trick of choice this afternoon, with few deviations, like Norway's Lasse Nyhaugen and UK's James Woods putting down a couple double cork 1260s. Seasoned vets Andreas Håtveit, Russ Henshaw and Bobby Brown led the pack after more than 60 jumps. Unfortunately for the host Brits, only legend Paddy Graham managed to make it out of qualies, but not without fine performances from James Woods and Julian Ball.
Even 15 year old Katie Summerhayes held it down for the ladies dropping some smooth 720 japans. The field of 32 had been culled down to 16, which were then seeded for the quarterfinals, the first seed taking on the 16th seed, the second taking on the 15th, so on and so forth. With only one of 16 riders not throwing a true double corking trick, the guns were definitely blazing. Heavy hitter after heavy hitter dropped in, much to the crowd's enjoyment. Here is how the head to head matchups went down in the quarters:
When the snow had settled, eight rider advanced to the semi-finals, where the going would start to get really tough. Every single rider in the semis has either won a city big air or an X Games medal. Just as with the quarters, the semis would be conducted in a head-to-head fashion.
Semi-finals produced some surprises, as defending X Games gold medalist Bobby Brown could quite put the landing gear down on his signature switch double misty 1260. Reigning AFP Big Air champion Andreas Håtveit goes down to Jon Olsson's near-perfect double corks. City Big Air wonder boy Elias Ambühl bested by double cork pioneer Jacob Wester. The sun had finally set, the crowd had fully gathered and the four super finalists were ready to go.
Superfinals: In the super finals, the contest reverted back to a more standardized two-run, best score counts kind of deal. In the first run, Jacob Wester couldn't keep his feet down, Russ Henshaw stomped another switch double cork 900, Henrik Harlaut put down another switch double cork 1080 and Jon Olsson landed yet another double cork 1080 double safety. After one, Olsson and Harlaut were tied for first, Russ in third and Jacob in fourth.
For the second run, Jacob dropped first, stomping a picture perfect double cork 1260. Russ Henshaw threw a beauty of a switch double cork 1080, unfortunately his bindings let him down and he crashed. Jon Olsson stomped another double cork 1080, while Henrik Harlaut went for his first double cork 1260 blunt of the evening, but couldn't hold it together on the landing. As a special treat, the event withheld the scores from the riders, the crowd, everyone, to build even more suspense. But in the end, Jacob Wester had bested the entire field of 32, including two of his countrymen. Jon Olsson took home the silver, Harlaut the bronze and Henshaw the honorable mention.
The end of another London Freeze marks the halfway point for autumn city big airs and the end of another successful event. Big pros must be given to the event staff, Sportvision UK and all the riders who made the trek to rainy London. With two down, the big air skiers look forward to the next contest in Budapest, Hungary.