We arrived to Breck’s Peak 8 this morning amid heavy snowfall, strong winds and some mighty cold temps, as well. On the docket: men’s and women’s slopestyle finals. Given the weather conditions, our immediate question was, “Will they host the contest?” And it wasn’t long before we were told that event organizers were entertaining the thought of a delayed start time. Additionally, the idea of utilizing solely the first four features in the course had been thrown on the table: two jibs, and two jumps. The reason being that the jumps towards the bottom of the course are harder to clear, given wind blows a bit stronger throughout that section of the course than at the top, where trees provide some shelter. We were also fed information that organizers considered granting riders one run, as opposed to the standard two.
While waiting on official word as to how the contest would go down, we spoke with a handful of athletes in the base lodge to gauge a consensus re: the athletes’ desire to compete. We reported their statements via @FreeskierLive; the feedback generally aired on the side of, “We should compete.” Meanwhile, the eight women finalists stated publicly that regardless of the organizers’ decision, they would not compete, thereby taking a stand and putting safety first.
Just before noon, the course conditions were reassessed and a group of coaches, representing nations from around the world, came to the unanimous agreement that the contest should be cancelled. Conditions were just too damn tough. The coaches also came to the conclusion that Wednesday’s qualifying scores would count as the final rankings; this decision was in accordance with FIS regulations which state that if a phase of competition is completed, but the next phase can’t be, the last one in the books counts.
This news was met with a mix of emotions from athletes, team managers, agents, etc. Some expressed great frustration, while others seemed more or less OK with the cancellation and its impact on the standings.
Of those who expressed frustration, a few of the arguments included: 1) athletes don’t compete to their highest level on qualifying day, 2) the scoring was tallied by two different sets of judges on qualifying day, skewing the overall rankings and 3) there should have been a weather day built into the event schedule. Adding to folks’ frustration is the simple fact that this is an Olympic qualifier, and with just two more qualifying events slated on North American soil this season, tension is running high.
One of those who voiced concern was Gus Kenworthy, who told us:
“I’m just super disappointed that they’re going off of qualifier results. I didn’t qualify that high—I just did what I needed to do that day to get into the finals. It is what it is, the weather is super tough today. It’s good we didn’t do it, on the one hand, as everyone is walking away injury free. I’m also super stoked for Bobby. He skied well in qualifiers, he deserved to win that day, and given what’s happened, of course he deserved to win today, too. So, I would have loved a second chance to try and improve my standing here today, and it’s the third of five Olympic qualifiers for the US team, so it’s getting pretty tight, and it’s all coming down to Utah, which makes me pretty nervous. We’ll see how it goes.”
Yet, in regards to the cancellation, Gus added, “I can’t see another way they can do it. It’d be unfair for Bobby and some others if they just didn’t count the event.”
While many different story lines may or may not play out as a result of today’s contest, we examine two examples of how this is affecting the athletes. In one case, we consider Nick Goepper, who’s currently locked (mathematically speaking) for a spot on the US Olympic team. Nick didn’t arrive to the hill today, for reasons unknown, but we speculate he was opting to play things safe. No need to compete in the blizzard if you don’t have to, right? While he would have been marked DNS, allowing another US athlete to secure points towards a potential Olympic berth, Nick sticks with Wednesday’s score, an 84.33, which was second among the Americans. And you can bet your bottom dollar somebody else would have loved to finish second among the US folk.
On the international side, one case worth considering is that of Norwegian Aleksander Aurdal. This Scandinavian was on the hunt for a top 10 finish here at Breckenridge, with a strong result having major implications for Olympic consideration, and sitting outside of top 10 contention after qualifiers he can only have been disappointed with today’s happenings.
On the other side of the coin, others today noted that 1) this is the standard FIS procedure, 2) the weather forecast is grim for tomorrow and 3) many of the international competitors had scheduled flights tomorrow, heading to Europe for a World Cup event in Gstaad. Among those who were happy, not surprisingly, were the two top qualifiers, and by default, the Grand Prix slopestyle champs: Bobby Brown and Keri Herman. We spoke with them following today’s award ceremony:
Keri Herman re: Grand Prix at Breckenridge
Bobby Brown re: Grand Prix at Breckenridge
In summation, it’s certainly difficult to pin-point an easy resolution in this case. Looking forward, we must anticipate that weather may play a role during the qualifiers in Park City, and beyond that, Mother Nature has the potential to have a great impact on the outcome of the Games in Sochi. To quote Nate Abbott, “The Olympics will not [necessarily] be skiing at its highest level, but rather [skiing] under the highest pressure.”
Throughout the afternoon, a handful of athletes have shared their opinions re: today’s contest via Twitter:
Would they ever use qualification results for a ski race? This is to see who makes it to the Olympics, not just another Grand Prix.
— Simon Dumont (@SimonDumont06) January 10, 2014
What's with event organizers not scheduling weather days? We're working in high alpine…
— Jossi Wells (@JossiWells) January 10, 2014
What a great showcase of talent at the Olympic qualifier today…. Hahaha. Wind.
— Tom Wallisch (@TWallisch) January 10, 2014
@FISfreestyle where's the weather day..? Let the athletes do their thing.
— Peter Adam Crook (@PAdamCrook) January 10, 2014
For now, we’ll look ahead to Sunday’s pipe final, and we’ll hope for an improvement in the weather. The results for slopestyle are as follows:
Men’s Slopestyle Results (Final), Grand Prix at Breckenridge:
1. Bobby Brown (USA) 87.00
2. Jesper Tjader (SWE) 86.66
3. Kai Mahler (SUI) 85.33
4. Vincent Gagnier (CAN) 84.66
5. Nick Goepper (USA) 84.33
6. Tom Wallisch (USA) 83.66
7. Gus Kenworthy (USA) 83.00
8. Fabian Boesch (SUI) 82.66
9. Alex Schlopy (USA) 81.33
10. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand (CAN) 81.00
11. Luca Schuler (SUI) 80.00
12. Jossi Wells (NZL) 79.66
13. Otso Raisanen (FIN) 79.00
14. Luca Tribondeau (AUT) 77.00
15. Aleksander Aurdal (NOR) 76.33
16. Henrik Harlaut (SWE) 76.00
Women’s Slopestyle Results (Final), Grand Prix at Breckenridge:
1. Keri Herman (USA) 88.66
2. Emma Dahlstrom (SWE) 86.00
3. Devin Logan (USA) 81.00
4. Kim Lamarre (CAN) 80.66
5. Yuki Tsubota (CAN) 80.00
6. Camillia Berra (SUI) 78.66
7. Dominique Ohaco (CHI) 78.33
8. Zuzana Stromkova (SVK) 77.00