Mike Riddle and Jen Hudak take Valmalenco World Cup Halfpipe

Comments by Freeskier Magazine/

Words and photos by Trennon Paynter

For the third time ever, the FIS “Grand Final” event is being held with the World Cup finals for Alpine, Freestyle, Nordic, and Snowboarding, all together at the same time, in the same place. Here in Europe, that translates to “a very big deal”.

Kicking off the action on Wednesday was the Ski Halfpipe event, and the team arrived stoked to put the finishing touches on what has been a stellar run of World Cup results. With Sarah Burke and Matt Hayward leading the women’s and men’s halfpipe season standings, everyone knew that the legendary crystal globe trophies were on the line.

The weather was perfect and the crowds were huge and stoked, all of the local kids had been given the day off school to come watch the event, and the athletes had to negotiate a frenzied mob of fans and autograph seekers on every lap to the lift. The pipe was in great shape, with the course crew on top of the maintenance. Multiple networks were on hand covering the event, and right from the start of qualifying runs, it was all being televised live throughout Europe.

In the women’s event we had a dramatic qualifying round, beginning with Rosalind Groenewoud skiing a great run, putting her in 2nd place heading into the final. Adding to the drama was Sarah Burke taking a very uncharacteristic fall and dropping into 5th position going into the final. In the finals, Sarah again had some troubles on her first run, and had to be take a slightly more conservative approach than usual for her second run, to ensure a podium position and lock in the season overall title. Jen Hudak from USA skied a great final run and squeaked ahead of Sarah to take the win. Roz skied a run that was unquestionably in contention for the victory, including one her best 900s to date, however a mistake landing her final hit cost her some valuable points, and in the end she finished 3rd, for her first World Cup podium result.

The men’s event was looking like a showdown between the Canadians, Finns, and French, with everyone skiing well, and the pipe getting softer by the minute in the sunshine. Matt Hayward qualified well, but on his first finals run had a terrible crash when he hit the deck on a 1260, injuring his shoulder and getting transported off the mountain to a hospital. Turns out it was nothing requiring surgery, and he was released in the evening, and likely will be back on snow within a few weeks.

Justin Dorey skied an awesome run that was capped off by a huge switch 1080 on his final hit. While we were all confident that it would land him on the podium, his score ended up being eclipsed by 3 others, and he finished just shy of the medals, in 4th place. This left it all up to Mike Riddle, who was sitting in 2nd place going into his last run. Mike threw down a combination of technical trickery, amplitude, and his usual perfect grabs. It was enough to bump Kalle Leinonen (FIN) out of the top spot, moving Mike into 1st place for his first World Cup Gold medal!

With the season finished, all thoughts turned to the overall halfpipe season standings race, and within minutes of the World Cup podium awards, the coveted crystal globe trophies, along with the Halfpipe overall season standing medals were brought out to the awards area.

First up to the podium was Roz, who’s consistency over the season earned her the 3rd place result in the standings! Jen Hudak (USA) earned 2nd place. Finally it was time for Sarah to get called up, and receive her globe! After dominating the halfpipe scene all season, Sarah now gets to add one of skiing’s most illustrious awards to her trophy case.

Over to the men, with his victory in this event, Mike Riddle moved up 4 spots in the rankings and onto the podium with a 3rd place. Kalle Leinonen (FIN) held down 2nd place. Matt Hayward’s victories over the season were enough to keep him on top of the leaderboard despite his crash in this final event. Although he was on his way to the hospital, he had earned a crystal globe of his own, sealing the team’s dominance of the World Cup halfpipe circuit this year! Justin Dorey just missed the top 3, finishing 4th on the standings, and ensuring that all 5 of our athletes were ranked within the top 4.

Immediately following the event, we had to hit the highway for Laax, SUI, for the European Freesking Open which is already underway. The events here are scheduled to finish on Saturday, and if time permits, we may be able to make it back to Italy on Saturday night, when the official season standings awards ceremonies take place in downtown Bormio, and the globes are officially presented to the winners from Alpine, Freestyle, Nordic, and Snowboard.

Results
Women
1st – Jen Hudak (USA)
2nd – Sarah Burke (CAN)
3rd – Rosalind Groenewoud (CAN)

Men
1st – Mike Riddle (CAN)
2nd – Kalle Leinonen (FIN)
3rd – Xavier Bertoni (FRA)
4th – Justin Dorey (CAN)

Results – 2008 World Cup Halfpipe Standings

Women
1st – Sarah Burke (CAN)
2nd – Jen Hudak (USA)
3rd – Rosalind Groenewoud (CAN)

Men
1st – Matt Hayward (CAN)
2nd – Kalle Leinonen (FIN)
3rd – Mike Riddle (CAN)
4th – Justin Dorey (CAN)