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Following two consecutive days of mixed weather conditions (everything from spectacular bluebird to puking snow and fog, the latter of which forced a postponement of the slopestyle finals on Friday) the first medals have been awarded here at the 2015 AFP World Champs. Today, we saw the men’s and women’s slopestyle finals go down on Blackcomb Mountain, followed by the men’s big air showdown—also hosted this year in the Nintendo Highest Level Terrain Park on Blackcomb. The athletes put on a great show while battling for coveted AFP points; this marks the final AFP-sanctioned contest of the season and competitors are thereby keen to bump up in the year-end standings.
Topping the men’s slopestyle podium was Bobby Brown. McRae Williams and Antoine Adelisse finished second and third, respectively. On the ladies’ side of things, it was local ripper Yuki Tsubota who reigned supreme. Tsubota was joined on the podium by Katie Summerhayes of the UK (second) and Canadian Kim Lamarre (third).
Quebec’s own Vincent Gagnier skied his way to a big air win, putting an exclamation point on what has been a remarkable season for the 21-year-old, highlighted by an X Games gold-medal-winning performance in January. In fact, Gagnier earned a podium finish in every single big air contest he entered this season. Rounding out the big air podium were James Woods in second and Elias Ambühl, third. The females were also awarded big air prizes; judges selected the top three single-best tricks from the ladies’ slopestyle contest. Giulia Tanno took top honors with a switch 9, while Katie Summerhayes earned second with a lofty 1080 and Yuki Tsubota claimed third with a flawless backflip mute.
Today at @WhistlerBlackcomb: @Bobby_Brown1 topped the men’s slopestyle podium. @McRae_Williams and @Antoine_Adelisse finished second and third, respectively. On the ladies' side of things, it was local ripper @Yuki_Tsubota who reigned supreme. Tsubota was joined on the podium by @SummerhayesKatie (second) and @Kim_Lamarre (third). Quebec's own @VincentGagnier skied his way to a big air victory in the afternoon. An awards ceremony will take place in Whistler Village later in the evening. Stay tuned for a full recap via freeskier.com. Pictured here: @RussHenshaw sends a double cork during this morning’s training session. #AFPWorldChamps @AFPWorldTour | The skiing events are just one small part of the ongoing World Ski & Snowboard Festival. Sports, Arts, Music. Be sure to follow along with the #WSSF hashtag. @WSSF #Whistler
Rewind: On Friday, we saw nearly 50 men compete in a slopestyle qualifier; the top five from each of two heats advanced to the finals, joining six pre-qualified athletes who earned the distinction based on AFP standings. The ten who advanced were Antoine Adelisse, Noah Wallace (recently crowned the 2015 TNF PPOS champ), Chris Laker, Simon D’Artois (he ain’t just a pipe jock!) and Elias Ambühl from heat 1, along with Robby Franco, Teal Harle, Tanner Gordon, Taylor Wilson and Russ Henshaw from heat 2. As aforementioned, the men’s and women’s slope finals were scheduled to go down following those qualifying rounds, and a combination of wet, sticky snow and flat light led organizers to opt for a postponement.
Note: you may download a .pdf that showcases the qualifier results, here.
With slopestyle finals bumped to this morning, the day’s agenda was certainly jam-packed. Yet, the decision to push the finals was well received. We enjoyed a fair bit of sunshine in the a.m. and a storm that passed through overnight provided favorable, soft-snow conditions. Visibility was much improved from Friday, as well, and athletes were excited to have a go at the primo course features—crafted by Charles Beckinsale and co.—without having to pay much mind to challenges presented by Mother Nature.
“The weather was unreal,” said Bob Brown. “Soft landings… The course was running super smooth. I’m really glad they postponed it, it really made for a better contest.”
And Brown took full advantage, earning the top spot today; this marks Brown’s second straight win—he placed first at the Platinum-ranked Dumont Cup in Sunday River, ME, in late March.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been consistent with my contest skiing,” Brown told us this evening. “It’s been a crazy year… To come out here and finish the season on a strong note, it’s pretty cool. The level of riding is just insane at every contest these days. Especially here at the World Champs, it’s unreal. Antoine [Adelisse] and McRae [Williams] threw down insane runs. Everyone in the top 10 was so impressive. It’s anyone’s game today, and fortunately I made it up on top.”
Brown earned top marks from the judging panel for stunts that included an absolutely massive, slow-spinning, pristinely grabbed and absolutely stomped double cork 10 mute on the first jump (as Bobby so often does), plus an enormous misty 450 safety off the cannon rail, up and over the entire butter box. Brown bagged a top score of 88.67 in somewhat dramatic fashion on his second and final run; it was the last run of the day. I witnessed Brown’s run from the table that hosted said butter box feature, alongside a sizable crew of athletes, and there was no question among the group that Brown’s run would take the cake. Well deserved, Bob.
“This whole week is insane,” he said. “It’s Whistler… It’s the craziest party ever.”
Second place finisher McRae Williams earned an 87.92 on his second drop of the day; Williams’ run consisted of a switch tails-over 270 on, to 270 out; dub 10 safety to the left; misty 4 out of cannon, gapping over the butter box; switch dub 10 safety to the right and a switch left dub 10 blunt to close.
“I took a really bad crash on Thursday in training,” Williams recounted. “To come back from that and do well here, it meant a lot. To end the season on a good note is huge.”
Frenchman and 18-year-old Antoine Adelisse claimed third spot on the podium. His run was as follows… Rightside 270 on, pretzel 270 out of down bar up top; left dub 10 mute; 270 onto the cannon box to switch, and a switch 5 off the butter pad; dub 9 safety and a switch dub 9 reverse bow and arrow. Both Adelisse and Williams echoed Brown’s comments regarding being pleased about the postponement of the slope finals.
For the girls, it was hometown hero Yuki Tsubota who skied her way to the top of the podium. “I’m so stoked,” she told us tonight, after accepting her award on the Main Stage in Whistler Village before a rowdy crowd. “This is my favorite event. It’s amazing to end up on top with my friends and family here to watch me. It’s the best thing ever.”
Amid the awards ceremony, Tsubota’s mother took “top-mom” award, juggling a camera in one hand and a phone in the other, with a live FaceTime link streaming to Yuki’s family in Japan.
Tsubota dropped a cork 7 leading tail, a backflip mute and a rightside 5 en route to the top. Her run is slightly less technical in the grand scheme, but solid amplitude and strong grabs earn her respect from the judges and her peers alike.
Tsubota also gave a nod to fellow competitor Jamie Crane-Mauzy, who suffered a nasty spill today and was transported to a hospital in Vancouver for evaluation and treatment.
“This year, the level of riding for the girls has been wild. We’ve been pushing it so hard,” Tsubota said. “Jamie’s [accident] today was really unfortunate. I’m wishing her well, and I’m planning to go and see her on Monday. [Injury] is a part of our sport. We try to prevent it as much as we can. We have such amazing facilities available now to be sure we’re learning how to do tricks in the safest environment and way possible.”
We too send best wishes to Jamie for a full and speedy recovery.
Moving right along: Big air contestants contended with a bit of snowfall and fog in the late afternoon. This famed big air event is typically hosted at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, at the edge of the always bustling Whistler Village, where thousands gather to cheer on the athletes; on account of low-snow levels, the event was hosted mid-mountain this time around.
Today’s big air champ, Vincent Gagnier, earned his keep (a new Arctic Cat sled, plus some fat cash) with a bio 12 dub Genie to safety and a dub bio 12 Octograb—standard fare for the big air maestro. The man has impressed the skiing community of late with his superior style and a unique approach to skiing. Moreover, he has impressed us all with a gracious attitude and humility in times of success.
Gagnier was complimentary of the happenings here in Whis’. Of course, the skiing events this week mark just one small part of the ongoing World Ski & Snowboard Festival; the 20-year-old event series fuses Sports, Arts and Music for one heck of a rockin’ experience.
“It’s always fun to be here in Whistler,” Gagnier said. “Everyone is always having the most fun at this event.”
Brown too spoke highly of Whistler and WSSF. “This whole week is insane,” he said. “It’s Whistler… It’s the craziest party ever. It’s the end of the season and everyone is letting loose. The skiing is obviously amazing as well. We couldn’t do this in a better place.”
The party-hearty spirit that pervades this town couldn’t have been more evident than in the past few hours (I’m now updating this post in the wee morning hours), when nearly all of the medalists made their way to Garfinkel’s pub and dance club to celebrate their successes. One word: tequila.
Sunday: The 2014-15 contest season comes to a conclusion with the World Champs halfpipe contest. Following the action on-hill, the annual AFP Awards Banquet invades Bearfoot Bistro, where the year-end champions (overall and per discipline) will be crowned. Stay tuned for continued coverage from Whistler Blackcomb. For more on the World Ski & Snowboard festival, be sure to visit wssf.com.
2015 AFP World Champs, Saturday Results
1. Bobby Brown
2. McRae Williams
3. Antoine Adelisse
1. Yuki Tsubota
2. Katie Summerhayes
3. Kim Lamarre
Men’s Big Air
1. Vincent Gagnier
2. James Woods
3. Elias Ambühl
Women’s Big Air
1. Giulia Tanno
2. Katie Summerhayes
3. Yuki Tsubota