Yater-Wallace and Kuzma shine in qualifying rounds at Copper’s 2014 Sprint U.S. Grand Prix

Yater-Wallace and Kuzma shine in qualifying rounds at Copper’s 2014 Sprint U.S. Grand Prix

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The qualifying rounds of the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix kicked off at Copper Mountain, Colorado today. The event marked the start of the 2014-15 competition series in North America. The pipe was near perfect, the sun was shining and the level of competition did not disappoint as each athlete fought for a spot in finals to be held on Friday, December 5, 2014.

The women started the day bright and early atop Copper’s Main Vein halfpipe. Seventeen competitors battled hard for a spot in Friday’s finals, and it was anybody’s game from the get-go. The morning was highlighted by strong performances from each athlete, but in the end it was Olympian Janina Kuzma who stole the show. Kuzma boosted big airs and smooth style down the entire pipe, earning the top seed in Friday’s final. Alongside Kuzma, five other competitors will strut their stuff in the big event on Friday, including Ayana Onozuka, Marie Martinod, Annalisa Drew, Kimmy Sharp and Devin Logan.

Note: Although Olympic gold medalist Maddie Bowman and fellow American Olympian Brita Sigourney were in attendance, neither of them were competing.

The men took their talents to the pipe shortly after the women’s competition concluded. A stacked start list created two separate heats for the boys, each group packed with tons of heavy-hitters. Frenchmen Kevin Rolland and Benoit Valentin came out swinging and quickly jumped to the top two spots on the leaderboard, where they would remain for the entirety of the competition. Gus Kenworthy battled a back ailment that kept him from competing in his first run, but the Colorado kid gritted his teeth and stuck his one and only run of the day to earn a spot in Friday’s final. Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck showed off his strength in the pipe throughout his second run. Despite landing low on his last hit, Blunck still managed to edge out the other competitors to advance to finals. Rounding out the top five competitors from heat one was Vail’s Taylor Seaton.

The second heat proved that Torin Yater-Wallace is ready to slay this season. Yater-Bomb showed off his signature style and massive airs, posting the highest score of the day on his first run, and then upping it on his second attempt. Olympic champion David Wise chased on the heels of Yater-Wallace throughout the round, earning the second spot in heat two. New Zealand’s own Byron Wells flaunted his burly new facial hair as he charged the pipe sans poles and locking up a third-place finish in the heat. Canada’s Mike Riddle and Aspen, Colorado’s Alex Ferreira rounded out the group set to compete in Friday’s finals.

Stay tuned to freeskier.com for up-to-the-minute coverage from Friday’s finals. Be sure to follow @FreeskierLive on Twitter for live updates.

Women – 2014 Sprint U.S. Grand Prix Top Qualifiers – Copper, CO
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Men – 2014 Sprint U.S. Grand Prix Top Qualifiers – Copper, CO
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