Cumming wins, Seaton takes second | VailDaily.com
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Cumming wins, Seaton takes second

Adam Boffey
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Eric Drummond
ALL |

COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colorado ” It’s a good thing for Jess Cumming the U.S. Freeskiing Open adopted a new finals format for this year’s event.

If the competition was still comprised of only two runs, the Copper Mountain skier and Eagle County resident would probably be out $2,500 bucks and the most important gold medal of her budding career.

“The three runs definitely helped me,” said Cumming, who took fourth at last weekend’s Winter X Games in Aspen. “I didn’t really land anything until the third run.”



Cummin excelled in the go-big-or-go-home round by pulling an alley-oop mute grab, a mute 5 to a safety grab straight air, and a cork 7 with a safety grab. The strong routine, which earned a score of 80.5 points, was made possible by Cumming’s top-notch mental game.

“In the past, I might have gotten more stressed in the contest,” she said. “I was focusing more on what my whole run was instead of just stepping back. …. I’m trying to be more fluid and go bigger ” it’s what I’ve been doing for a while, but now I finally have it super dialed in.”



Cumming, who was joined on the podium by Mirjam Jaeger (78.25) and Roz Groenwood (76), called Sunday’s victory her biggest to date.

“I can’t really describe it,” she said. “It hasn’t really sunk in. I’ve taken third in the past and it’s pretty surreal to be sitting on top.”

A sad note accompanied the women’s finals when Jaeger injured herself on the third run and had to be transported down the mountain in a ski patrol toboggan.



Sunday’s finals featured plenty of carnage overall, which Vail’s Claudia Bouvier offered an explanation for.

“Girls were charging today,” said Bouvier, who took third in Friday’s slopestyle competition. “That’s what happens when you’re trying to push up the level. We all know we need to step it up a little bit and when you try to step it up, you fall.”

When AJ Kempainen dropped into the superpipe at the finals of the U.S. Freeskiing Open on Sunday, he wasn’t thinking about the judges.

“My specific goal was to ski for myself,” Kempainen said after winning the 11th annual competition with a score of 89.25. “I’ve learned during the last couple of days that if you ski for anyone else, you’re not going to win the contest.”

Kempainen, an 18-year-old rising star from Finland, said he focused on landing his tricks smoothly, but also trying not to do too much.

“I wanted to be have style and be smooth,” said the U.S. Open newcomer, who threw a switch 720 into a right side 9 during his winning run. “That’s what Tanner (Hall) did in the X Games.”

Hall won last weekend at the X Games and last year at the U.S. Open, but wasn’t on hand for this year’s 11th annual event.

Kempainen was joined on the podium by Copper Mountain rider Taylor Seaton (87.75 points) and Xavier Bertoni of France (87).

Seaton, a 17-year-old resident of Avon, clearly relished the best finish of his career thus far.

“Making the finals was a big goal for me,” said Seaton, who executed an impressive octo 7 grab on Sunday. “After I made the finals, I definitely wanted to pump up and go for the win.”

Seaton has been no stranger to Copper’s mighty halfpipe, especially over the last three days.

“I’ve probably gotten 50 runs a day,” he said. “I get really comfortable with pipes, learn them really well and it’s kind of an advantage. It keeps me landing inside the walls.”

By landing on the podium out of nowhere, Seaton enhanced his pro skiing career.

“Taking second or third gets your name out there and definitely gets you sponsors,” he said. “But winning it would definitely be a bigger deal.”


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