Schiller edges Dumont for slopestyle win
COPPER MOUNTAIN – Not succeeding at first didn’t stop TJ Schiller from trying again and again until he caught the judge’s attention with the last drop of energy he could muster.Schiller, who was a virtual no-name from Whistler, B.C., when he showed up at the U.S. Open in Vail two years ago and blew everybody out of the water, surprised even himself Sunday after the last run he put down in the Gravity Games ski slopestyle event at Copper Mountain earned him a victory and $20,000.”This is pretty huge for me,” Schiller said. “I’m totally surprised, especially after being at the very bottom the whole time.”Schiller, who scored consistently in the 60-point range for almost the entire two hours of the jam-format contest, decided to try his same run one last time with about 12 minutes remaining and “go just a little bit bigger.”
He threw a switch rightside 720 off the first hit, a switch leftside 7 off of the second, a switch leftside 1080 off of the third and a big leftside 9 off of the final jump. On the rails, he went 270 on and off the bleacher hit and “fooled around, spun around, all that cool stuff,” he said. Coming off the final bus bench rail, both his fists hit the ground as he landed switch, but by then, it appeared not to matter. The judges gave him a 96-point score, which announcers said was the highest ever given in the history of ski slopestyle competition.”I was actually thinking about pulling out of the competition,” said Schiller, who came to Copper last weekend shortly after returning from skiing in Norway. “I’ve been super sick all week. I’m still weak, but it all came together in the end. I pretty much gave it all I had. I was like, ‘OK, that run was pretty good.’ I didn’t think it was my perfect run. I knew it was a good run. I didn’t think I’d do that well. I’m happy. I have absolutely nothing to complain about right now.”One person who looked like he was trying hard not to complain was second-place finisher Simon Dumont from Sunday River, Maine.At the beginning of the contest, Dumont threw a flawless run that earned him a 93.7-point score that only third-place finisher Charles Gagnier of France could come anywhere close to. Gagnier earned 87 points after doing back-to-back 1080s, but that didn’t happen until more than an hour of the contest had already passed.
Dumont threw another couple of runs that were as flawless as his first, then put together a final run that started with a big switch 540, then went into an unnatural 5 to a switch 7 to a huge 1080 with an impeccable landing, followed by a clean slide off the first rail and a 270 on and off both of the last rails without so much as a wobble. This run earned him 94.7 points and, although Gagnier, who won both the Winter X Games slopestyle contest and the U.S. Open this year, earned a 90-point score after pulling almost an identical run right after Dumont, it appeared that nobody would touch him. But then Schiller shook off his wooziness and wrapped it up.”I’m pretty sure I was the only one landing all day, so it sucks to have that happen, but that’s what happens in this jam session, I guess,” said Dumont, who is also the reigning X Games halfpipe champion after winning this year’s and last year’s events, after taking second place Sunday and winning $10,000.Not in it for the money”It’s not really about the money,” Dumont said. “I’m pretty bummed right now. Nobody was close all day and then somebody can be inconsistent and … that happened. Whatever. It happens.”
Per Gravity Games slopestyle regulations, the contest is judged each run at a time, meaning that consistency is of no consequence. Dumont was not in favor of the two-hour format that allowed the likes of Schiller to drop in and take the victory from him at the last minute, but Gagnier, despite having better success at the U.S. Open and at the X Games, said he preferred the Gravity Games format and the course at Copper. “The jumps are bigger here. It’s easier to do big tricks with big grabs,” Gagnier said. “I think (the jam format) is good because if you don’t make something, you can come back on another run and just stomp it.”Sammy Carlson of Mt. Hood, Ore., finished fourth Sunday with 88 points. Tanner Rainville took fifth (86.0), Aspen’s Peter Olenick sixth (85.0), Tim Russell seventh (84.0), Andreas Hatveit eighth (78.0), Steele Spence – also from Aspen – ninth (77.0) and Tom Dolezel 10th (74.4).Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado