Gutsy girls go big in superpipe |

Gutsy girls go big in superpipe

Andrew Harley
Preston Utley/Vail DailySarah Burke throws an ally-oop 5 Sunday during the U.S. Freeskiing Open superpipe contest. Burke's clean pair of runs landed her a victory in the women's event.

VAIL – On a sunshine-inspired day, 28 of the most-talented freeskiers hucked large on Vail’s halfpipe for the 2005 U.S. Freeskiing Open women’s superpipe event.Twenty-two-year-old Sarah Burke from Toronto snuck out of the scrum with the victory on Sunday afternoon, while Kristi Leskinen of Uniontown, Penn., took second and Jen Hudak of Hamden, Conn., placed third.Burke’s first-round score of 88.2 would have sufficed for first place, but she came back with a similar second run – 89.6 – accented by a couple of more difficult tricks.Burke dropped into her second run full force with a 540 and mute grab. She lifted off the next wall with a 50 grab, then proceeded into a mute grab. She pulled off an ally-oop 540 and ended with a full 720.”I kinda knew that’s what I was going to do. I had a bad crash in practice. I was going to take the ally-oop 5 out, but I threw it in the end,” said Burke. “I’m super psyched. I got what I wanted, and I’m happy with my run.”Leskinen’s two runs told a similar story to Burke’s, as Leskinen’s first-round score was enough to take the overall for second place, but she put together a gorgeous second run to better her first attempt.Leskinen dropped in with a straight air with a mute grab on the right wall, hit the left wall with a straight air with a Japan grab, then hit the right side with a mute 540, transitioned into an ally-oop and hit the sunny side with a bright 720 to finish with style.

“In the first round, I kind of messed up on it (the 720). I knew that if I didn’t throw the 7 in there, it wasn’t gonna come around for me today,” said Leskinen.Leskinen’s second-place finish was quite impressive considering her lack of experience in halfpipe events.”I thought the pipe really shaped up nicely. We got here four days ago, and it was like a turbo taco – that’s what we call it when its super tight and really fast,” said Leskinen. “I’ve never been a halfpipe skier before, and this year’s the year that I’ve tried to step it up. So, it’s some of the best halfpipe skiing I’ve ever skied myself, but I know I still have a good way to go.”So, less than five points separated Burke from Leskinen, which has to be attributed to Burke’s hard work and experience.”I have a lot of rotation that I’ve mastered and feel comfortable with, so I think that’s the thing that helps get me ahead. Lately, I’ve been working on trying to make things smooth and getting new grabs,” said Burke.For many of the competitors, the pipe was less than forgiving. Two-thirds of the pipe – skier’s left wall – loomed in shadow, while the right side of the pipe shone high-wattage fluorescent. Most of the women fell in their rotation attempts midway down the pipe on the sunny side.Hudak broke the norm by having her late-run trick troubles in the shadows of the skier’s left wall. Hudak’s first run (75.4) earned her third place although it was less impressive than her second. Still, her mistakes in the first run were relatively minuscule.

“I’m pretty stoked that I ended up in third. I was biting my nails,” said Hudak. “I kept messing up on that last hit. I would have been really confident, but I did mess up. I got kind of lucky, but I was skiing well on my other hits.”The panel of five judges were less than loving toward a few of the participants who felt like they had thrown down podium-worthy runs.Jamie Sundberg finished in 12th place and wasn’t pleased by any means with the occasionally ambiguous scoring system on Sunday. Her first run merited no special attention, as she received a 37.2. However, her second run was clean, she had nice amplitude out of the pipe and a fine variety of tricks. Something seemed fishy when she received a 52.6, considering Hudak’s third-place run was less flawless – perhaps more exciting, though.”I know the judging is really subjective, and we need do things to get the judges’ attention. But, the judges also need to be paying attention to what we’re doing out there,” said Sundberg. “When you have a good solid run that you expect to be top five, top eight, it’s really frustrating.”One of the event judges explained that what matters most is the overall impression of the run.”One thing with Jen, she pretty much completed her whole run and fell right at the end,” said 2005 U.S. Freeskiing Open judge Tom Zikas. “We felt her run was good enough, even with that instability, to put her in third.”The rest of the top 10 finishers in the superpipe were Gina Gmeiner in fourth, Claudia Bouvier in fifth, Jessica Cumming sixth, Joanne Bromfield seventh, Virginie Fairve eighth, Grete Elliassen ninth and Marie Martinod 10th.

‘X’ marks this week in training With the 2005 U.S. Freeskiing Open over, freeskiers will spend the week gearing up for, perhaps, freeskiing’s biggest event: Aspen’s Winter X-Games.Our three heroes from the superpipe plan on competing in the highly-publicized extravaganza.”I’m working on ally-oop 5s, some tricks on the left wall and maybe I’ll get some 9s in there. We’ll see,” said Leskinen. “This next week is gonna be all halfpipe training for me.”Burke will take a champion’s rest for the next three days. She’ll be relaxing with her sister before she heads to Aspen to prepare for the X-Games.”I’m going to be working on my alley-OOP spins, 5s and 7s, and probably working on a 9 in there somewhere,” said Hudak.Vail Colorado

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