FIS Press Release, Calgary, CAN:
A quick blast of snow overnight and into the morning created an entirely new set of pipe conditions for the athletes on hand at the Calgary FIS Freestyle halfpipe World Cup event from the famed Canada Olympic Park on Friday.
Unseasonably warm temperatures and sun on Thursday had the skiers on hand in almost a spring vibe, as the pipe had just the right amount of softness to feel forgiving combined with a slick bottom making it easy to hold speed and keep the amplitude up. However, the snow that rolled in nixed all that, and Friday saw a pipe that had slowed down considerably, despite a huge effort by organizers to slip the flat bottom into shape.
The skiers who were able to power through the slough were rewarded, and the top man and the top lady on the day both made it look easy on the way to locking down big wins in the lead-up to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, now only 33 days away. And, with a Canadian sweep in the men’s competition, the crowd too was rewarded with the chance to cheer on some of their top medal hopefuls for those games.
In the men’s competition it was Justin Dorey stepping up big, with a run that included one of the only 1260s thrown on the day and a switch left 720 dub Japan near the bottom that put an exclamation point on his dominance. Dorey is having a strong year, with a 3rd place in Cardrona (NZL) in August, a 4th place a few weeks ago at Copper Mountain (USA), and now a win on home soil in Calgary to stake his claim as perhaps the top Canadian hopeful heading into Sochi.
Dorey was followed up by teammate and top qualifier Noah Bowman, whose powerful switch skiing and unshakeable consistency made him the man to beat throughout the last two days. Just behind Bowman was Matt Margets, who pulled out a gutsy second run after scrubbing out in his first lap to edge a fourth Canadian – Simon D’Artois – off the podium.
In the ladies event, it was smooth skiing Brit Rowan Cheshire (GBR) who looked perfectly at home on her way to the first World Cup win of her career. Cheshire looked unfazed by the slow conditions, rolling across the flat bottom with her arms at her side between tricks like she was just rolling to the parking lot after a casual day of freeriding.
Starting things off with a huge tailgrab and later tossing the smoothest right-side flair of the ladies’ competition, Cheshire seemed to be in top form. With her win coming amidst some intense pre-competition build-up from her home nation media, Cheshire looks to have the chops for performing under pressure – something she will need if her win sends her on an Olympic journey.
Cheshire was followed up by last year’s halfpipe overall winner and world champion Virginie Faivre (SUI), who is only just back to competition after suffering a broken back some three months ago. Faivre skied well, but suggested that she still has a little ways to go before feeling 100%. Amy Sheehan (AUS) rounded out the international top three for the ladies, just holding off top qualifier and hometown favourite Megan Gunning (CAN).
While the powerhouse American squad was not on hand due to the fact the Calgary event was not considered by the USSA to be a qualifying event for the US Olympic team, there was still a strong group of skiers in Calgary on Friday, all keenly aware that the Americans’ absence meant an opening to score podiums, points, and a shot at the Games. The six who got those podiums certainly took advantage of that opening, and in just over two weeks they’ll find out whether it was enough to punch that ticket to Russia when the Olympic qualifying period ends on January 19th and teams are announced shortly after.
Dorey, Justin (CAN)
Winning run – Left double corked 1260 safety, right side 900 tail, right alley-oop 540 safety, air to fakie safety, switch left 720 double japan, left alley-oop 540 mute
“I was having issues all week with that first trick, the double 12, and that was actually the only one I’ve landed since I’ve been here, so finally it was time for me to put one down. So yeah, I’m really happy with the way today went. We have a lot of talent on the pipe team right now. We got top four today, so going into the Games we feel pretty confident. Hopefully we can get three, maybe four of our guys into the Games.”
Cheshire, Rowan (GBR)
Winning run – Tail grab, alley-oop mute, left 540 safety, right flair, left 900, safety grab
“It’s so amazing. I had a bit of a bad crash in practice, but I kinda tried to pull it together in the comp even though my heart was racing, and I’m so glad I was able to do that and get my run down how I wanted to. I was just trying not to speed check, trying not to slow down, and just cutting it in. Luckily we waxed our skis last night. This allows me to qualify for Sochi, and opens up a quota spot (for the British team). So now it’s just up to the board to decide who the team is. But this helps a lot.”