Vanular is the most spectanular
VAIL – It became immediately clear among the 16 U.S. Freeskiing Open slopestyle men’s finalists that a few big spins were not going to be enough to make the podium. Three full spins (1080) on a hit … not enough. Three and a half (1260) … not enough. Corey Vanular didn’t expect to come out of the 2006 U.S. Freeskiing Open slopestyle contest with a victory … and $7,000. But the 17-year-old from Toronto, Ontario, launched onto the flat down rail with a 630 spin – something he’s never done before in a contest – and grabbed the judges’ attention. He won with 88 points.”To tell you the truth, no, I didn’t’ expect to (win) at all,” said Vanular, who took third in last year’s U.S. Open superpipe and gold at this year’s Gravity Games pipe contest. The 630 trick was part of Vanular’s “maybe” bag.
“I had that trick unlocked before the contest, but I didn’t know if I could get it around with no lip on the rail,” he said. “But it worked out pretty well.”Vanular knew that he had to try something different. The 630 was an improvement to his first run, which also consisted of a switch right-side 720, a cab 7 Japan and a cab mute 1080.Defending champion Charles Gagnier of Quebec, who also took gold in last year’s X Games slopestyle contest, couldn’t even pull off a podium this year, despite his cork 9 unnatural, switch right-side 10 and switch left-side 10. He took 10th and admitted that the competition has turned up a notch this season.
Pulling the tech out of the bag”I think the guys are more technical this year, like big spins and spinning both ways,” he said. “Guys are getting good at spinning a lot, but unnatural (the opposite of their comfortable spinning direction). They impress me.”Sammy Carlson, a 17-year-old from Mt. Hood, Ore., took second place with 85.8 points, and veteran Swedish skier Jon Olsson, who has been earning a reputation as the perpetual bronze medalist, took third Friday with 82.2 points, barely scraping by Aspen’s Peter Olenick, who finished fourth with 82 points.
Carlson, who took fourth in the Gravity Games slopestyle contest, saw that a string of 7-10-9 switch spins might not be enough to distinguish himself. So he did the same sequence his second run, but decided to try a 12 on the last hit for the first time ever.”My friends told me to,” he said. “I’m so happy, it’s crazy.”AJ Burton finished fifth Friday, with 2004 champion TJ Schiller in sixth and two-time X Games gold medalist Simon Dumont, who fractured his pelvis and ruptured his spleen in a misjudged jump last spring, finished seventh. Derek Spong took eighth and Matt Philipi ninth.
Nearly the same men’s field will take to the halfpipe today, joined by last year’s champion Tanner Hall, as the U.S. Freeskiing Open continues. Men’s semifinals begin at 12:30 p.m.Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado