Ben Ferguson, Chloe Kim top halfpipe semis
VAIL — Watching the halfpipe run that landed Ben Ferguson on top of the leaderboard today, one would assume it was his amplitude that earned him the highest score on the day.
That was this year’s X Games’ halfpipe winner, Danny Davis’ assumption.
“Fergie went big and did the tricks that people want to see,” Davis, who also qualified for Saturday’s finals by finishing 7th, said after Ferguson’s run. “I think amplitude makes a big difference.”
But according the the Burton US Open team of judges, it was actually Ferguson’s execution that was the most outstanding on the day.
Ferguson’s run — a frontside 720 Japan, cab double-cork 1080 mute, double crippler indy, backside 900 mute and finally a frontside double cork 1080 melon — earned him an execution score of 23.5 on a 25-point scale, well above any other athlete in the field that day.
Ferguson himself knows execution pays off. He won the best trick award at the US Open last year for his first hit in the halfpipe, a 20-foot double crippler.
Today, he just wanted to land his run.
“I was super nervous,” he said. “I just wanted to put something down and it worked out.”
GOLD IN SECOND
After leading the field by nearly 10 points (of a 100-point scale) after the first run, the nerves seemed appeared to calm down for Ferguson. His second run, a victory lap, was among the most fun on the day, ending with a tripod handstand 540 maneuver into a circular Euro carve into the fan gallery. That victory lap was a demonstration in what else is out there from a guy who says progression is one of the biggest challenges to staying on top.
“It’s hard to keep progressing when there’s so many contests,” said Ferguson, who is a regular at the Grand Prix World Cup events, the Dew Tour, the X Games and, of course, the US Open. “You’re going to these contests and you’re just trying to figure out the halfpipe, you’re always trying to do the best you can do, and the best you can do sometimes is the trick you just learned the other day, so it’s hard.”
Colorado native Taylor Gold, last year’s US Open halfpipe winner, was the second highest qualifier on the day. The top 10 made finals, and after run one of two, Gold wasn’t close.
“I was terrified, I just watched a bunch of sick runs go down, the whole event, everybody was killing it, so at the top it’s definitely nerve racking and it’s hard to keep it together when you’re watching sick run after sick run being thrown down,” Gold said. “I was so nervous. I was really thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to make it happen because my legs were shaking.”
After laying down an impressive run of his own, Gold relaxed a little.
“I feel amazing,” he said. “To make it to the bottom and have it be smooth like that, I’m so stoked.”
‘COULD’VE BEEN A FINAL’
One thing Gold won’t have to contend with in finals will be his new rival, Yiwei Zhang, who didn’t make finals. Zhang tied Gold for the halfpipe World Cup title this year, topped Gold last weekend at the Park City Grand Prix, and finished second to Gold at the Dew Tour and the Copper Mountain Grand Prix. Zhang was among a few big names not to make finals, including U.S. Olympians Greg Bretz and Louie Vito.
“Most notable from today, from semi finals, was the fact that in both the women’s and the men’s halfpipe, it could have been a final,” announcer Tom Monterosso said after the event. “The level of riding this year is noticeably higher this year than in year’s prior.”
While Zhang won’t be representing China in the final, his compatriot Xuetong Cai qualified fifth of six on the women’s side. In another developing rivalry, the eldest competitor to make finals — 31-year-old Kelly Clark — qualified second behind the youngest competitor in the field, 14-year-old Chloe Kim.
Clark has competed in approximately 200 semi final halfpipe events like today’s.
“Even after all these years, you still get nervous,” she said. “It wasn’t my cleanest run, in finals I’ll look to clean things up and add a few tricks in different places.”
In another upset on the day, US Open legend Hannah Teter didn’t make finals either. She said regardless, she’s just happy to be here.
“This is my roots right here,” she said. “I grew up going to the open since i was 11, it’s the most fun event.”
And as far as what’s going to happen in Saturday’s final?
“Chloe and Kelly are going to battle it out, and anyone’s eligible for third,” she said.