Eliassen defends crown in slopestyle
VAIL – It was as if Hollywood screenwriters had constructed the scene and had cast Grete Eliassen in the protagonist’s role.The succession of dramatic events Friday in the U.S. Freeskiing Open’s women’s slopestyle final on Golden Peak was just that good. First, there was a titanic 900 from Sarah Burke on the bottom kicker of the slopestyle course to cap off what was a near-flawless second run for the Ontario native. Burke’s body spinning smoothly through two-and-a-half revolutions – a perfect silhouette cast against a brilliant blue sky overhead – incited the crowd of spectators at the base of Golden Peak and shot Burke to the top of the leaderboard with a score of 86.6.Just as Burke’s score hit the board, however, Eliassen was preparing to drop on course for her final run. The first-run leader wasn’t aware that Burke had jumped in front of her in the standings, but nevertheless, decided to try to one-up her own first-run score of 78.4 instead of playing it safe. “I didn’t hear anything,” Eliassen said. “I knew (Sarah) had a good run on the rails.” Eliassen said she wasn’t tuning in to hear much, anyway. After winning the women’s slopestyle final at the Open last year, the 18 year old from Minnesota, who has spent her winters in Norway for the last five years, was feeling a lot of pressure. A large portion of her extended family, including aunts, cousins, and one very proud grandmother, was on hand to watch from below amidst an amped up crowd anxiously awaiting another big run.The dramatic tension had been written out perfectly.Eliassen started her run by sliding, right foot forward, on the C box on the left side of the course. She 270ed off, then skied switch up to the kinked rail and did a disaster all the way down. She then wound up for a big 720 off the first kicker, followed by a corked 540 off the second jump.Up to that point the run had been solid, but Eliassen still needed to throw down huge off the last kicker if she was going to reclaim her lead. When she landed crisply on the transition on the backside of the last jump, a fluid 900 of her own behind her, it was apparent that the defending champ had come through in the clutch.”I just had to calm down and do a good run,” Eliassen said. “My first run, I went really big on the last jump, so I just tried to slow it down on the last one and it went good. This feels wonderful. It’s very exciting.”Knuckle upThe final kicker on the course ate up a female number of competitors Friday. A large portion of finalists either didn’t hit it fast enough, which earned them a hard landing on the knuckle before the final transition, or just opted not to take their chances on the massive hit and sacrifice crucial points. Those who did hit it with everything thing they had were rewarded for their effort.
“I wanted to do (the 900) on the second jump,” Burke said. “But I didn’t get the rotation, so I had to do it on the last one. I didn’t really think too much about. It was just like, ‘Misty 9? Go for it.'”Third-place finisher, Ashley Battersby, 15, from Park City, Utah, ended her second run with a stylish, slow-rotation 540 off the last jump. It was the strong finish she needed, following an unblemished tear through the course, to put her into the top-three.”I was so nervous before my second run, more so than my first one,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Everyone was throwing down. I kind of wanted to do a 7(20) on my last one, but I knew I could stomp a 5(40). I’ve got a broken hand right now, so I just wanted to stomp what I could do and not get hurt.”Despite the nervous energy, Battersby said she never considered not taking the jump at full speed. Going too big is one way to get hurt, she said, but not going big enough can produce the same result. “You’ve just got to go for it,” she said. “It’s like my brother always tells me – If you don’t commit, you’re going to get hurt.”Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com.Friday’s winners1. Grete Eliassen, $2,5002. Sarah Burke, $1,5003. Ashley Battersby, $10004. Michelle Parker, $500Saturday’s scheduleSAAB/ Salomon Crossmax
8-9:30 a.m. – Crossmax course inspection9:30-10:30 a.m. – Crossmax sectioning or full length practice runs10:30 a.m.Noon. – Crossmax time trials12:15 p.m. – Crossmax men’s Heats 1-8 (Round 1)1 p.m. – Crossmax men’s Heats 9-12 (quarterfinals)1:30 p.m. – Crossmax women’s Heats 1-4 (quarterfinals)2 p.m. – Crossmax men’s Heats 13 and 14 (semifinals)2:15 p.m. – Crossmax women’s Heats 5 and 6 (semifinals)2:30 p.m. – Crossmax women’s Heat 7 (consolation race)2:45 p.m. – Crossmax women’s Heat 8 (finals)3 p.m. – Crossmax men’s Heat 15 (consolation race)3:10 p.m. – Crossmax men’s Heat 16 (finals)3:10 p.m. (directly following the finals) – Crossmax awards ceremony at the awards stageSuperpipe Qualifier
9-10:30 a.m. – Superpipe qualifying, Heat 110:30 a.m.-Noon – Superpipe qualifying, Heat 2Noon-1:30 p.m. – Superpipe qualifying, Heat 31:30-3 p.m. – Superpipe qualifying, Heat 43 p.m. – Superpipe last-chance qualifierBig Air5 p.m.-5:45 p.m. – Big Air jump inspection and practice6-7:15 p.m. – Big Air, Round 17:15 p.m. – Semifinals7:45 p.m. – Finals, Round 18 p.m. – Winterfresh SnoCore concert teaser8:15 p.m. – Finals, Round 28:15 p.m. (directly following the finals) – Big Air awards ceremony at the award stageVail, Colorado