Eliassen pulls one from the vault for halfpipe victory
COPPER MOUNTAIN – Grete Eliassen picked a good time to throw her first alley-oop 720 in two years – the halfpipe finals at the U.S. Freesking Open.Eliassen, who earned the first U.S. Open halfpipe victory of her career Sunday at Copper Mountain, nearly missed her opportunity to throw the judge-pleasing trick.”I was running out of pipe,” Eliassen said. “So I thought, ‘OK, I’ve got to do it here.'”The Minnesota native, who resides in Holladay, Utah, landed the challenging maneuver near the base of Copper’s superpipe before a large gathering of spectators and cameramen.Eliassen, owner of two halfpipe wins at the Winter X Games and three slopestyle victories at the U.S. Open (’04-’06), said her victory was made especially sweet by her disappointing fifth-place finish in Friday’s slopestyle finals.”I don’t know what happened,” Eliassen said. “I fell in slopestyle, so this was really important to me. … I really wanted this.”SurpriseSunday’s runner-up, Roz Groenwood, was clearly less expecting of a top-three spot than Eliassen.”I didn’t imagine a podium finish at all,” said an ecstatic Groenwood, moments after the results were announced at Copper’s Burning Stones Plaza. “I have to go talk to my friends.”When the crowd thinned out, Groenwood reflected on her result.”Well, I spun both ways,” said the 17-year-old ripper from Calgary, Alberta. “That’s something that a lot of boys do, but not a lot of girls do. I think that might have done it.”
Groenwood started spinning both ways last year. Although her learning process was rocky at first, she has now developed the skill well enough to set her apart from other female athletes.”It’s really weird,” Groenwood explained. “If you don’t ski, it might sound awkward that one way would be so much harder than the other, but it really is.”Groenwood’s 79.75 narrowly edged Angeli VanLaanen’s 79.5.”I was really nervous,” Groenwood said. “But I just wanted to have a whole bunch of fun and ski the best run I could today.”Just off the podiumJess Cumming claimed fourth place, missing the podium by 4.5 points.”I got the biggest air I’ve ever gotten today,” said Cumming, who finished third at last year’s event. “I liked my cork 5s today – they were really good, really inverted. I definitely wanted to land a cleaner (second) run and go a little bigger, but my seven just wasn’t quite there. I think I over-rotated it a little bit.”Japan’s Manami Mitsuboshi rounded out the top five with a score of 74.75Sarah Burke, the U.S. Open halfpipe champion for the last two years, was conspicuously missing from Sunday’s podium after finishing sixth.”I skied what I could and Grete did well too,” said Burke, who fell on her first run, then scored 71.5 points on her second. “Grete and I go back and forth all the time. She’s the one to beat and I look forward to skiing with her. … I’m psyched for her, she’s an awesome, hilarious person.”Twenty-year-old Jen Hudak missed out on her fourth U.S. Open halfpipe podium (two thirds and a second), including a runner-up finish at last year’s Open.”I wanted to put down a run and I put down a run,” said Hudak, who fell on her first run and scored a 67.5 (ninth place) on her second. “You have to keep pushing yourself and learning new tricks, but when it comes to contest day, you have to do what you can do. … Today I did what I was prepared to do.”
Eliassen and Burke were the only women to compete in both the slopestyle and halfpipe finals (Kristi Leskinen qualified for pipe, but pulled out due to injury).”All the main top girls do both – it’s basically just a trend,” Eliassen said. “You have to do everything. In snowboarding there’s more women who do separate events, but in skiing mainly all of us do everything. It just makes us better skiers.”Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.Women’s halfpipe finals1. Grete Eliassen82.52. Roz Groenwood79.753. Angeli VanLaanen79.54. Jess Cumming755. Manami Mitsuboshi74.756. Sarah Burke71.5
7. Stephanie Sirianni71.258. Virgine Faivre68.59. Jen Hudak67.510. Anais Caradeux65.2511. Gina Gmeiner63.7511. Julie Johnson63.7513. Keri Herman60.2514. Ida Jespersen6015. Kim Misof59.2516. Mirjam Jaeger58.7517. Pip Simmonds57.518. Marta Ahrenstedt5619. Katia Griffiths53.25
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