One of the most highly anticipated events of the season, the AFP World Champs/WSSF big air contest went down this evening at the base of Whistler Blackcomb. The final AFP sanctioned big air event of the 2012/13 season, the competition marked athletes’ last chance to shake up the world standings in the big air department. Heading into the weekend, Henrik Harlaut, Gus Kenworthy and Vincent Gagnier were ranked first, second and third—respectively—in the race for the 2013 AFP big air title. Interestingly enough, it was these three who topped the podium tonight, though in reverse order, with Vincent claiming the top spot, Gus grabbing second and Henrik third.
As per usual, thousands gathered in Whistler Village to watch the big show: A sea of spectators filling the main square, the patios at Garibaldi Lift Co. and the Longhorn Saloon packed full of raucous party people, and hotel balconies hosting more still. Perhaps inspired by the thrill of jumping before such a large crowd, the athletes’ performances are always top-notch here at WSSF.
The show kicked off at 5:00 p.m. with 32 competitors facing off in a two-run qualifier—best run counts. Of those 32, only eight would advance to the final. Earning that right of passage today were Henrik Harlaut, Russ Henshaw, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, Alex Schlopy, Joss Christensen, Espen Bergh, Gus Kenworthy and Vincent Gagnier, in that order. Those crazy eight would then drop in for another two runs in the final—again, best run counts.
L-R: Henrik Harlaut, Vincent Gagnier and Gus Kenworthy
The top three stunts were as follows:
Harlaut skied his way to an even score of 90.0 on his first run, with his money-making nose butter double cork 10. On his second attempt, Henrik opted for the 12, but was unable to hang on through the slushy, rutted landing. His 90.0 would hold, however, earning him a cool $1,500 along with a handful of AFP points.
“I’m psyched on my performance,” said Henrik after the event. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to do the nose butter tonight because it was a bit slow, so I was psyched to pull through and wrap up the season like this—I didn’t miss a single podium this year in all the big air contests I entered.”
While Henrik was certainly thrilled, his mind was not on the outcome, the money, nor the AFP standings. Rather, Henrik was thinking about the ensuing Nas concert, slated to kick off at 8:00 in the Village. “It was a little problem today,” joked Henrik. “I’m so excited. The whole day, all I could think about was the show. In the middle of the big air I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh sh#t, only three hours left. Then only two hours left… Of any single artist, I believe Nas is my favorite. He’s awesome.”
Just ahead of Henrik tonight was 2012 WSSF big air champion, Gus Kenworthy, who earned a 91.0 for his efforts. Gus stomped a double cork 14 tail on his first run and upped the ante on his second go-round, sticking a double cork 16, whilst holding true tail throughout.
“I feel great,” Gus told me in the finish corral after the award ceremony wrapped up. “It’s a super crazy podium. Both of those guys are so talented, and we’re currently the top three on the AFP Tour for big air. Not sure what this is going to do to the standings, but I’m stoked to find out.”
Gus’ statement brings up the question that is looming in the minds of many tonight: Who is the 2013 AFP big air champ? The official announcement will come on Monday night, here in Whistler Village, during the annual AFP awards banquet and dinner. We’ll be on site covering the action—be sure to stay tuned.
And taking the cake tonight was none other than Vincent Gagnier—the second place finisher at WSSF big air in 2012. Vinnie skied his way to the top with a double bio 12 octograb, earning a 92.0 from the judges.
“I’m happy,” said Vinnie. “I think I could have probably done [the trick] a little better, but it was good enough for the win, so what can I say?!” Vincent says he’ll hold off on celebrating until he’s done competing here this weekend—with slopestyle qualifiers on the docket for Sunday, Vinnie will be aiming to earn a spot in Monday’s final. “I’m gonna stay out here in Whistler for the rest of April,” Vinnie continued, “then go to some Poor Boyz park shoots later in May. And that pretty much wraps up my year!”
2013 WSSF big air results:
1. Vincent Gagnier
2. Gus Kenworthy
3. Henrik Harlaut
4. Espen Bergh
5. Russ Henshaw
6. Alex Schlopy
7. Joss Christensen
8. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand