Men’s world championship halfpipe a different story for US skiers, snowboarders
Four American skiers make finals while only one snowboarder qualifies
PARK CITY — While Toby Miller was the lone hope for American men in the FIS Snowboard, Freestyle Freeski World Championships halfpipe snowboarding competition on Friday, Saturday’s ski halfpipe men’s finals will be a much different story.
American men were granted five spots in the ski halfpipe event, as the defending world champion Aaron Blunck, a Vail Ski & Snowboard graduate, earned his invite outside of the four athletes the U.S. is permitted when he took the crown at the 2017 championships. Of those five American skiers, four made it through Saturday’s finals. Taylor Seaton, of Avon, qualified in ninth position.
Of the four American snowboarders in the halfpipe competition, Miller was the only athlete to make it through to finals, finishing fourth overall. Jake Pates, of Eagle, wasn’t able to complete either of his qualifying runs and finished 28th.
Blunck was in danger of a similar fate, crashing hard on his first run in qualifiers.
“I thought I heard something break,” Blunck said.
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But after sitting through the rest of the competitors, Blunck was feeling better by the second and final run, and was assured he hadn’t broken any bones. He completed an impressive run, landing on his first hit his signature trick, known as a “switch double down the pipe,” taking off and landing backwards, or switch. Blunck’s score on his second run proved to be enough to qualify in third position.
Seaton said his run was his best of this season, so far.
“The run starts with two down-the-pipe spins in different directions, moves into two up-the-pipe spins in different directions, and ends with two switch down-the-pipe spins in different directions,” Seaton said. “It doesn’t have a double cork, but because that trick has come to define our sport, in a way, I’ve been leaving it out of the run on purpose to try to showcase something different.”
Seaton added, however, that he thinks the fact that the run has six hits is what got him into finals.
“It’s a long pipe and a lot of guys were finishing their fifth hit with a lot of pipe left in front of them,” Seaton said. “Our sport is based around putting on a show for people to see, so there’s no way I’m not capitalizing on that opportunity and throwing one more trick in there … I think the fact that I’m able to do six hits and still get good amplitude is unique enough that the judges want to see that style of run showcased in finals.”
Catch the world championships ski halfpipe final airing live on NBC Saturday starting at 11 a.m. MST.