Deschaenaux defends big air title
A week prior to the U.S. Freeskiing Open, big air competition defending champion Mickael Deschaenaux thought he wouldn’t be competing in the event because of health issues. No where near 100 percent healthy, Deschaenaux mustered all the strength and courage he could and walked away with his second title in as many years.
Deschaenaux, of Switzerland, flew past a field of 30 certified plank pilots to find himself in a showdown against Friday’s men’s slopestyle champion T.J. Schiller.
Deschaenaux swept the judges’ table on the first jump out of three, but Schiller retaliated in kind on the second jump.
For the final jump, Schiller cleanly landed a relatively big, twisting effort, but Deschaenaux jumped last and got a much more significant amount of air. Three judges voted for Deschaenaux and two voted for 17-year-old Schiller.
“I can’t be more psyched,” said Deschaenaux. “I’m super duper stoked.”
The U.S. Freeskiing Open, in its seventh year, proudly presented Deschaenaux with a healthy $10,000 check, as he became the first big air competitor to win back-to-back.
When asked how it felt to come out against the best freeskiers in the world and beat them, Deschaenaux replied, “It’s the dream, right?”
And what will Deschaenaux do with the big air check?
“I don’t know. I still have a lot of things to do, man.”
Schiller and Deschaenaux were part of an eight-man field, pared down from the 30 original competitors, which included Aspen’s Peter Olenick, Mike Wilson, Nick Mercon, Jon Olsson, Charles Gagnier and Tanner Rainville, who placed third in Friday’s slopestyle competition.
Wilson, who scored the highest individual jump of the day during the qualifying round with a 93.50, fell to eighth-seeded Olenick in the first round of the finals. Schiller beat Mercon, Olsson defeated Gagnier and Deschaenaux went huge over Rainville.
Schiller took down Olenick in the second round of the finals, while Deschaenaux defeated Olsson.
In the consolation match, Sweden’s Olsson edged Olenick to take third place and a spot on the podium.
When asked how it felt to have come so close to becoming the first person to win slopestyle and big air, Schiller said, “I’m amazingly stoked, dude, so pumped.”
In the U.S. Freeskiing Open’s seven years, the big air competition has always been of the most popular competitions.
“I thought it was great. The crowd out there was loud,” said U.S. Freeskiing Open Event Producer Ryan Miller. “Every year, I line them up at the start and I’m a timer, and there’s such a great vibe up there. The camaraderie at the starting line is something the people at the bottom don’t get to see.”
The U.S. Freeskiing Open continues today with the men’s and women’s superpipe competitions at 9 a.m.
Andrew Harley can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext.610, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.