Live from Japan!

Comments by Shay Williams/

Greetings from Japan, we’re here at the Nippon Freeskiing Open, 2007. This is the first major competition that has been held in Japan in quite a few years, and it’s an open format at that, much akin to the US Open. The event here has also recruited some of the biggest names in skiing to grace our presence. With the likes of Simon Dumont, Peter Olenick, Jon Olsson, Andreas Hatveit, Grete Eliassen, and Sammy Carlson to name a few, there has been no shortage of fans, here at the Green Plaza Hotel, mid-mountain at the Joetsu Kokusai resort.

The first two days were qualifying for slopestyle and superpipe, and they were plagued with weather problems from the start. Only three of the four slopestyle qualifying heats could be run, the fourth being held today, just before semi-finals. And the Superpipe had so much snow in it, it was difficult for competitors to air out.

But today was the first big day of competing, and the weather stayed pretty sunny throughout the entire day. The semi-finals heat list was packed full of ski superstars, with a few choice japanese riders sprinkled in there. The course featured a flat box to steep landing, with big spin-offs very capable, to either flat box, disaster down box, or flat-down disaster rail, to big gap jump. It’s no surprise that the course was so short, due to the lack of snow that this resort has had so far this season.

But once things got underway, it was a veritable feast for the onlookers’ eyes. Charles’ smooth rail style, Andreas’ switch 1440s, Sammy slaying everything, Simon’s big misty 1080s, Wilson’s mistys off the first box, and Rainville’s super steezy switch 7 mute to true tail.. Not to be outdone, Sarah Burke has been holding down the women’s side of things by stomping cork 900 over the gap. However, the real crowd favorite was John Symms, whose giant Flares over the gap, backflips everywhere, and bumblebee style clothing; he certainly has made his mark on this event.

And what would a competition be without a little controversy? Mike Wilson, who managed to ski well all day, couldn’t hold it together and went down on both his finals runs, yet managed a 5th place finish, bettering both Simon Dumont and Tanner Rainville, who put down solid runs and finished 9th and 11th respectively. There is a lot of speculation about the judging here, but the decisions are final and there isn’t much anyone can do.

Later, at the podium, instead of the north american champagne spraying tradition, the top men and women participated in what can only be described as a Sake Keg Smashing ceremony, where the winners smash the top to a small barrel of sake with wooden mallets. However, just like the champagne of the western hemisphere, the sake ended up all over the crowd. Now that the excitement of the slopestyle has died down, we are all getting excited about the spa, karaoke and sushi here in Japan. Hopefully the weather holds up for the superpipe, and we’ll let you know what happens, here in Japan.

Here are the official results of the day:

Men’s Final:
1) Charles Gagnier
2) Andreas Hatveit
3) Sammy Carlson
4) PK Hunder
5) Mike Wilson
6) Justin Dorey
7) Dan Marion
8) Yuta Ueno
9) Simon Dumont
10) Mike Riddle

Women’s Final:
1) Sarah Burke
2) Kristi Leskinen
3) Vanessa Colletta
4) Virginie Faivre
5) Ami Okubo
6) Kayoko Taguchi
7) Maiko Hara
8) Anais Caradeux
9) Kaita Griffiths
10) Yukiko Takaku