Youngbloods shake up slopestyle final
New blood was injected into the spotlight during Friday’s men’s slopestyle final at the U.S. Freeskiing Open, as two first-timers took to the podium.
Unheralded T.J. Schiller banked the $7,500 first-place check with the best run of the day – an 85 – dethroning two-time slopestyle champ Tanner Hall of Mammoth, Calif., who ended up fourth.
Henrik Windstedt of Sweden finished in second, and virtual unknown Tanner Rainville took third.
“I wouldn’t say I took it away from him,” said Schiller when asked about beating out Hall, one of his teammates with Armada skis. “We’re just doing it for the team. You’ve got to represent. We just did our own thing and kept up what we did all of practice, not really thinking about the weather or the poor lighting. We just kept thinking about the good stuff.”
The lighting was a factor in Friday’s event, as long qualifying heats continued to prolong the finals’ start time.
Hall, fresh off a slopestyle gold medal at the Winter X Games VIII in Aspen and wearing the No. 1 bib, did have two impressive runs in the finals, tearing through the rails at the top of the course and throwing clean corked spins off the bottom booters. But, it wasn’t enough to even garner a spot on the podium.
Another Tanner from Mammoth, Calif. did have a career day, as Tanner Rainville walked away with the $2,000 third-place prize.
Rainville, a true unknown before this weekend’s event, was the crowd favorite, earning a podium spot with a score of 81.25 in his first Open, despite the fact that nobody even knew where he was from.
While the rest of the competitors had their home mountains listed on the scoreboard during their runs, Rainville’s name only had USA listed underneath, even though he was the No. 1 points-grabber heading into the finals.
“I just kind of came out of nowhere, I guess,” said Rainville, who is originally from Vermont, but migrated to Mammoth this season to become a full-fledged park rat. “I was just trying to do my best. I’ve practiced a lot at Mammoth, like everyday. The park’s great there. So, it helps a lot just trying to stomp the tricks and keep it real clean and everything. It was a little bit difficult seeing what I needed to do, in such flat light, but still, it was way fun.”
Schiller, also a first-timer to the Open, was blown away by Rainville’s savvy in the finals, as was the crowd who let out big cheers every time Rainville reached the bottom.
“That kid’s sick man,” said Schiller. “He just blows my mind. This event is just awesome because so many young kids like him are coming out and just killing it.”
Second-place finisher Windstedt was also impressed, but noted that they don’t call it the Open just for kicks.
“At the Open, it’s always like that, said Windstedt. “There’s always one or two guys that come in and become a pro. That’s why it’s a great contest.”
Spriggs goes big
Local star John Spriggs didn’t qualify for the 12-skier final Friday but he was close, finishing seventh in the first heat of qualifiers, a spot removed from the six that moved on.
“I’m happy about it,” said a smiling Spriggs. “I mean, I wasn’t even expecting getting top 10 in my heat. There’s big names like guys that I look up to, guys that I see in movies. So I didn’t expect much.”
Spriggs stuck a huge corked 1080 off of the bottom booter at the end of his second run, but it was the little details at the top which kept him on the outside looking in.
“I just came out here to have fun,” said Spriggs, smiling. “That’s what I was saying before my run. When I saw that I was closer to making the finals, I kind of got more serious.”
Grete Eliassen won $2,500, in the Friday’s women’s slopestyle, instead of $25,000 as reported in the Vail Daily’s Saturday edition.