Big Air turns into friendly rivalry |

Big Air turns into friendly rivalry

Ryan Slabaugh

The 19-year-olds weren’t fighting. In fact, after the adrenaline-fueled shoving match, Deschaenaux shouted a big thank you to Hall, and explained why later.

“He’s the guy who kept waking me up every morning, telling me to stop laying on the couch and watching the Cartoon Network,” said Deschaenaux, who stomped his cab-9 (with a grab) landing in front of the few thousand frozen, but excited, fans. “He kept telling me, get out and get skiing. He’s the man.”

Hall, meanwhile, stomped his landing as well, but he failed to get the huge air that got him past the field of 30-odd competitors and into the finals. In the opening round, each athlete had two chances to qualify for the eight-man finals, which then featured a head-to-head elimination bracket.

Still, Hall could only smile about how the final turned out. Both freeskiers won one head-to-head match, meaning it came down to that final air.

“I don’t regret getting him out of bed one bit,” said Hall, who is one of the favorites for today’s halfpipe competition, starting at 10 a.m. “He’s one of my best friends. I’d do anything for that kid.”

While the air was frigid and the snow turned to ice, the large crowd kept pouring out support, especially when television crews from TBS and MTV panned the crowd. Huge applause went out for the two finalists and third-place finisher John Symms. Symms was relatively unknown before an X Games qualifier in Breckenridge in January, but proved by near-wins in Aspen last week and Saturday in the Big Air, that he’s ready for the big time.

“I’ve been feeling like this is my year for a long time,” said Symms, who knocked off Mark Abma in the consolation final. “I was doing an upright air, while Mickael’s doing the same thing but corking it out a bit. It’s just one more move. I can get there.”

A local also had the crowd’s support. Battle Mountain High School student Junior Martinez couldn’t quite stick the landing on his two attempts, but still received plenty of applause and high-fives from the rest of the field.

“The landing is super hard,” Martinez said. “I got a little help from Mike Jaquet (the organizer of the event). I told him I wanted to jump in front of everybody, and he said I could.”

The most television-friendly event was flashed in front of the crowd by jokester Tom Dolezel, who skied a run in a thong bikini for the second-straight event. While Dolezel barely avoided losing some vital organs in the landing, he wasn’t in a hurry to get dressed. In a moment that defined the freeskiing scene, Dolezel gave several interviews to the cameras in his special outfit, and then went to hang out with his friends.

Sarah Burke, who won the women’s slopestyle competition Friday, landed a 900 in competition and was the only women’s competitor. She fell on her second run, jamming her leg hard on the rough landing. Still, she will be known as a pioneer in women’s freeskiing with her successful first jump.

Ryan Slabaugh is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at

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