VAIL, Colorado - The slopestyle favorites for the women were the ones who came out on top Wednesday during the semi finals at the Burton U.S. Open.
The top six women out of 21 total riders advanced to Friday's final. Winter X Games bronze medalist in slopestyle, Spencer O'Brien, came from behind and finished in first place. The event takes the best score from two runs, and O'Brien was sitting in 15th when she began run no. 2.
She messed up on the last rail before the jump section of the course on her first run and knew she had to clean that up in order to secure a spot in the finals.
"That was a pretty stupid mistake," O'Brien said. "On the first run, I fell on the last rail feature before the jump, so I really didn't want to do that - I was really happy to get through that (on the second run)."
O'Brien threw a 180 on the first jump, followed by a big frontside 360 on the second jump and a back 540 on the third jump, putting her hand down on the landing but maintaining control.
"Actually, the wind picked up quite a bit for that second run so I had to adjust and just go 180 on the first jump, but I'm just really happy to have landed and made it through," O'Brien said.
Winter X Games gold medalist Jamie Anderson finished in second in the semi final. She was happy with the course, giving big compliments to Snow Park Technologies for building and designing it.
"It's really nice - SPT did a great job," Anderson said. "It's really diverse, really creative and progressive. You definitely have to hold your speed for the whole upper section and into the first jump."
Anderson sat in first place after the first run and wasn't thinking too hard about her second run after that. Rather than map out every trick, she said she likes to "just freestyle it, and go with the flow."
Taking the third spot was Canadian Brooke Voigt, who was sitting in sixth place going into her second run. She knew there was room for improvement after her first run, she said, so she cleaned it up and went bigger on her jumps.
"I did a (720) instead of a (360) on my second jump, and it worked out for me," Voigt said. "It's really tight - it's a really fast course. It's really hard to dial your speed for the features, but it's pretty fun."
Czeck rider Sarka Pancochova, the silver medalist at this year's Winter X Games, finished fourth, followed by Chrisy Prior and Shelly Gotlieb, both of New Zealand, in fifth and sixth respectively.
The youngest female rider, Miyabi Onitsuka, of Japan, almost cracked the top six - she was sitting in sixth place for a bit until Gotlieb's second run knocked her out.
Onitsuka said she was just enjoying the competition. She called the Vail slopestyle course the most difficult course she's ever ridden.
Gotlieb said she wanted to "tidy it up" after her first run. She came off a feature early and made a mistake, costing her some speed.
"Even thought there's plenty of speed (on the course), you need to have it exactly right and in the first jump - I didn't have it exactly right," she said. "It's a really fun top section - everyone's really enjoying it. It's different, it's built well and the jumps today have been the best they've been so that's also a bonus."
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.