X Games starts with French invasion in Aspen
ASPEN — After several years of North American dominance by skiers in the halfpipe, there was a French revolution at X Games on Thursday.
The favorite David Wise, who won 2012 – 2014 and also won the sport’s Olympic debut in 2014, failed to land a clean run allowing Frenchmen Kevin Rolland and Benoit Valentin to take the one and three spots, respectively, and American Gus Kenworthy to take second.
Taylor Seaton, of Avon, found himself in a similar predicament to Wise, failing to land a clean run.
With only 12 halfpipe skiers invited to participate in X Games this year, competition was tough.
“There were no qualifiers, just straight finals, which makes it really intense,” Kenworthy said after the event. “Everyone is just going for it, it’s crazy.”
With his boyfriend Matthew Wilkas on the sidelines and on camera, attention was focused on Kenworthy, who recently announced he is gay. As a side story, Kenworthy had medaled at nearly all levels of freeskiing except the X Games before Thursday. He landed clean runs in his first and second attempts, scoring in the 90s and leading the competition for most of the event. A first-ever X Games medal was looking like it could be a gold for Kenworthy, right up until the very last opportunity for the very last competitor.
Laying down a solid run that caused his coach to explode with emotion at the top of the pipe, Rolland unseated Kenworthy at the last possible moment.
Asked what he was thankful for, the Frenchman replied, “Well, I’m thankful my coach was able to make it.”
Rolland’s performance also bumped Aspen native and hometown favorite Alex Ferreira from what would have been his third bronze medal in as many years at X Games. Rolland’s teammate Benoit Valentin ended up finishing third with Ferreira in fourth.
The X Games continue today with Eagle-Vail native Chris Del Bosco attempting to make it past qualifiers in the return of ski cross to the X Games.