Seaton stomps big at World Cup qualifiers
MAMMOTH WORLD CUP
Grand Prix ski halfpipe finals
Qualified from Heat 1
1) Torin Yater-Wallace
2) Gus Kenworthy
3) David Wise
4) Kevin Rolland
5) Hunter Hess
Qualified from Heat 2
1) Taylor Seaton
2) Aaron Blunck
3) Benoit Valentin
4) Joel Gisler
5) Simon D’Artois
MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, California — When Avon skier Taylor Seaton was 14 years old, he would doodle in a notebook about his dream runs in the halfpipe. One of the runs he imagined involved landing four different variations of the forward 900 — spinning left off the right wall, right off the right wall, right off the left wall and left off the left wall.
On Wednesday, he landed that run which he had been dreaming about for 12 years.
“I basically blacked out during the run, I barely remember it,” Seaton said after the competition. “I was so incredibly excited I didn’t even care what my score was or if anyone even saw it. I just knew I had done something no one else had ever done and reached a goal I have had in mind for more than a decade.”
It was a history-making moment, as four different forward-facing 900s had never been landed in a competition before. The judges took notice, giving him the highest score on the day for his heat.
“I honestly wasn’t doing it for the judges or for anyone else, but I’m really happy that they rewarded me for it,” he said. “It really makes me feel better about the whole sport now that that run has been landed and scored favorably.”
The Grand Prix in Mammoth this week is not only a World Cup, it’s an Olympic qualifier. With X Games just wrapping up, the best in the world are performing at their best, and competition is as tough as it gets. Seaton’s score of 90 not only bested X Games gold medalists Aaron Blunck, Kevin Rolland, David Wise and Simon D’Artios, it beat those competitors even though the run didn’t contain the coveted double cork — two off-axis inverts within the same trick — which has become a necessary part of any winning halfpipe run.
“I respect everyone who does the dubs, and I do often do them myself in my runs,” Seaton said Wednesday. “But lately I’m starting to feel like the sport is focusing too much on the acrobatics and not enough on the variation that comes with different spins. A seven-hit run like I did with four different forward 9s is a throwback to Tanner Hall’s days of halfpipe skiing and something I think he left on the table for someone else to come along and accomplish. I was really thinking about him a lot today. It just feels good to say now that’s been done.”
The competition saw two heats with two different judging panels — the top 5 for each heat advance to Friday’s finals. Torin Yater-Wallace won the first heat with a score of 92.33. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail skier Sammy Schuiling, at just 16 years old, just missed qualifying for finals by finishing sixth in his heat.
“He was as close as you can get, so that hurts a bit,” said Elana Chase, Schuiling’s coach at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. “But he skied amazing against all the top athletes and he’s only 16 so we feel really good about where he’s headed.”
Schuiling will go down as 16th overall when the competition ends.
“Sixteen years old in 16th place, we’ll take it,” Chase said. “He’s got big things in front of him.”
In front of Seaton now is a tough final on Friday which will include multiple X Games gold medalists and an international contingent of the world’s best halfpipe skiers.
“I don’t even know what I’m going to do in finals,” Seaton said. “But I dug out my old notebook and found the run with the four 9s, and I’m going to cross it off the list and see what else is in there.”