Two inches of snow fell on Copper Mountain Saturday night, slowing down the Main Vein Superpipe and forcing athletes competing in the season’s first freestyle competition to alter their game plans.
When it was all said and done, two Americans stood at the top of their respective Freestyle North American Cup podiums, the first event of The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series. The first was an aspiring rookie, the other a well-entrenched pro who barely edged reigning champ and friend Mike Riddle from Canada.
“Riddle is a good buddy of mine,” said men’s 2013 Freestyle North American Cup winner Gus Kenworthy. “He threw down an awesome run that easily could have taken the top spot. I’m just honored to be on the podium with him.”
Riddle, who came into Sunday’s finals in top position, earned a score of 92.25 on his second and final run to take second place overall. Kenworthy stole the crown by throwing three 1080s on his second run to earn a 93.50 and first place.
Finishing in the top position was a surprise to not only Kenworthy, but also to U.S. team coach Andy Woods.
“Gus put together a much better run than he planned,” Woods said. “He wasn’t planning on doing so many big tricks, but after his first run he felt confident he could find the speed.
“Three 1080s is big, it showed good variety and I think that’s what did it for him.”
On the women’s side, U.S. Rookie Halfpipe Team member Annalisa Drew took top honors Sunday with a second run of 84.50, edging fellow American Devin Logan who came in second with an 82.25.
“Annalisa had a fairly break out season last year,” Woods said. “She’s definitely one of our hopefuls to make the Olympic team and it was definitely good to see her start off the season with a win.”
Despite the obvious excitement of taking home their first wins of the season, both Kenworthy and Drew said they have their sights set on the big prize; a ticket to the 2014 winter games in Sochi. Next week they’ll compete in the Dew Tour Mountain Championships in Breckenridge, one of two primary qualifying competitions for the U.S. Olympic Team.
“It was super important to get confidence up going into the Dew Tour,” Drew said. “It’s an Olympic qualifier and I hope to do well there, too. There’s going to be a lot of the same girls there, so I don’t see why not.”
In addition to wins by Kenworthy and Drew, Isabel Atkin and Evan Schwartz placed high enough Sunday to earn a spot in the other primary U.S. Olympic Team qualifier, the four-stage Sprint U.S. Grand Prix, which is being hosted over the next two months at Copper Mountain, Northstar and Mammoth Mountain.
After Sunday’s performance, Woods is looking forward to seeing what his whole team brings next week to Breckenridge for the Dew Tour, and later the Grand Prix.
“It was a tough day, under tough conditions and a lot of plans changed due to the slow pipe,” Woods said. “Whenever you make good decisions on the fly, it means you’re well prepared.”