Estonian skier, teen phenom Kelly Sildaru wins three X Games medals in 25 hours
Since the day Kelly Sildaru arrived in Aspen as a 13-year-old, the Estonian teen has wowed crowds, amazed competitors and rewritten record books.
She wrote another chapter in her already impressive Winter X Games resume, this one titled “25 Hours in Aspen: 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze.” Friday night she finished third in big air at Buttermilk to go with gold Friday morning in slopestyle and silver in the superpipe Thursday night.
“I always really wanted to do all three disciplines, and I knew it was going to be hard but I didn’t think it was going to be this hard,” she said Friday night at the base of the 80-foot big-air jump. “I had super-long days. On Wednesday, I had slopestyle practice at 9 in the morning, then I finished off pipe training at 9 in the evening. Really long days, but I’m happy that it’s over.”
She is the first woman since the inaugural Winter X Games in 1997 to win three medals in one year. Sweden’s Jennie Waara, who was 22 at the time, won gold in boardercross, silver in halfpipe (back when it was 12-foot tall) and bronze in slopestyle at Big Bear. Waara now is a personal trainer in Sweden.
On Sildaru’s final run Friday morning in slopestyle, the teen registered the highest slopestyle score in X Games history, 99 points out of a possible 100, and improved her streak to 3-for-3 on the Buttermilk course.
“I loved my run and I loved what I did. So yeah, I’m stoked,” she said. “The first two runs I was a bit slow on the second and third jumps, so I just tried to get more speed and better grabs. But you never know what you’re going to score with your run.”
She took off a few hours and “just chilled at the lodge” before finishing her 2019 Aspen appearance with another medal. She now has seven medals (three gold, three silver and a bronze) in three trips to Aspen.
Sildaru won slopestyle in 2016 as a 13-year-old, becoming the youngest female gold medalist, and repeated in 2017. She tore her ACL last season and sat out X Games and the Olympics.
She was in first already before Friday’s final run with only American Maggie Voisin, last year’s winner, in the gate behind her. Did it feel like the best run of Sildaru’s young career?
“The score says that, so yes,” she laughed. “I’m really enjoying skiing right now. It really was a bit sad last year not being here.”
Voisin, who had a 87.66-point run on her second time down, said this year’s course is the best setup in her five trips to Aspen. She especially liked the rail section, which proved to be her downfall on her last run, an attempt to improve on bronze and overtake Sildaru.
“I wouldn’t say it changed my thinking,” Voisin said of seeing Sildaru’s 99-point score, “but I was a little more hungry to move up knowing I was in third already.”
The Montana skier competed in Friday night’s big air but struggled to land two solid runs and did not podium. Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland won the big air, and Norway’s Johanne Killi was second.
Swiss skier Sarah Hoefflin won big air last year but finished fifth Friday night. However, the 18-year-old who won Olympic gold in slopestyle last year took silver Friday morning in slope.
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