Americans sweep women’s halfpipe podium at Burton US Open
VAIL — Chloe Kim rode to victory at the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships halfpipe competition on Saturday for her first win in her last four competitions.
Kim, who won nearly everything last season including the Burton U.S. Open, had missed the podium in her last two competitions and took third at the X Games before that.
“I got this really bad cold and had a cough for like a few months, and I couldn’t talk because I’d be coughing the whole time,” she said.
To heal up, Kim went back home to California and spent some time with her dog, a mini Australian Shepard puppy named Reese.
“I think just going back home to the beach and sea level and not being in crazy altitudes, being back home and hanging out with my dog helped a lot,” Kim said.
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Kim looked as good as she felt on Saturday, landing a 1080, a 900 and a 720 in her final run to notch a score of 87.12 and make a return to the top of the podium. Second-place finisher Elana Hight — a veteran halfpipe rider who has been competing for almost as long as Kim has been alive — said the Vail venue was in perfect shape, which contributed to the good performances from Kim and the rest of the field on Saturday.
“The halfpipe is perfect, (Snow Park Technologies) and Vail have done such a great job, it’s literally flawless,” Hight said. “And warm weather, a good amount of practice, that all definitely leads to everyone coming into the contest being super prepared.”
CLARK FORCED TO DROP OUT
The contest started with nearly everyone landing their tricks cleanly in the first of the three runs competitors receive in the halfpipe. Hight said after seeing the first competitor land a clean run, the rest of the field fed off that positive energy.
“As soon as someone lands, usually you see a lot more landing, and once you see a fall, you usually see a lot more falls,” Hight said. “Whether you’re conscious of it or not, I think that kind of carries through events, and to start it all off with a lot of stomped runs definitely made for a good event.”
When the falls did start coming, they came hard. Hight didn’t quite make it to the wall of the halfpipe while spinning a 720 during her second run, hitting the top deck and falling into the flat bottom section. She said the fall looked harder on camera than it actually was.
“The slow-mo makes it look way worse,” she said.
Third-place finisher Maddie Mastro took a hard fall while performing an inverted Haakon flip in her third and final halfpipe run. She also hit the top deck of the pipe hard and was slow to get up, frightening the crowd for a second by laying motionless. With a quick waive, she signaled that she would be OK.
“Probably in the morning I’ll be a bit sore,” Mastro said.
Eight-time Burton U.S. Open winner Kelly Clark fell in practice and withdrew from finals. It was a rough week for Clark, who said she caught a bout of the flu and was vomiting at the top of the pipe during Thursday’s semifinals. After bumping her head in practice Saturday, Clark said she would be fine but it would be better not to go through with the competition. Her American teammates said they were also disappointed Clark didn’t compete on Saturday.
“I was about to drop in when that happened, it definitely freaks you out a little bit,” Kim said. “We want Kelly to be here, we want her to be killing it as always, thankfully it wasn’t as bad of a crash.”
Hight said when one athlete has a bad enough fall to be taken out of the competition, the whole field feels the impact.
“It affects you a little bit, I think,” Hight said. “We want the best for everyone.”
HIGHS AND LOWS
At 27 years old, Hight is currently experiencing the best season of her career after winning the X Games in January and finishing second in Vail on Saturday. She said the key to her success in 2017 has been, simply, having fun.
“I’ve been competing professionally for 14 years, and you definitely go through your ups and downs in your career,” she said. “I’m just stoked to be really focused right now, I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work.”
With a smile and a look toward Kim, who is 16, and Mastro, who is 17, Hight said her compatriots on the podium haven’t been competing long enough to be through the worst of the highs and lows of competition.
“I’ve been competing professionally for 14 years, you definitely go through your ups and downs during your career,” she said. “It’s rad to have a new crew out there, these girls are pushing it.”
Kim did experience a low point this season, however, when she found herself in an emergency room in South Korea during the Olympic test event.
“I had a really bad fever and I just wasn’t feeling so good,” she said.
She ended up finishing in fourth at the test event, which gives athletes their first taste of how the Olympics will feel. Kim, an American of South Korean descent, found herself to be somewhat of a celebrity there, which was a high point to balance out the illness lows.
“It was insane, people were running after me, screaming, waiting at the lift to go up with me, it was really overwhelming,” she said. “But I loved it, it was awesome to see how much people love snowboarding over there.”
The snowboarders will head to the FIS Freestyle Ski & Snowboarding World Championships, which takes place March 6 through 19 in Sierra Nevada, Spain.