Blunck wins halfpipe ski gold, Corning qualifies for slope final at World Championships
The Park Record
Aaron Blunck had to do something special to stand out.
As one of four American halfpipe skiers among 10 competitors in contention for the FIS World Championship on Saturday, there were plenty of ways to fall short of earning the top spot on the podium.
His first run was solid, putting him into third. But to defend the World Championship gold he earned in 2017, he had to pull out all the stops in his final run.
He dropped into Eagle Superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort, flowing through the top section much as he had in his opening run, going from a switch left double cork 900 into a switch right double cork 1080, then a left double cork 900 down the pipe. Then he added his trump card, the right double cork 1440 he had first performed at the Copper Mountain Resort Grand Prix in December, and flowed it into a switch alley oop flat 540 to finish his run.
The judges gave it a 94.2, and Blunck threw his hands up in excitement.
But he couldn’t truly celebrate yet.
He was still waiting for several athletes to finish, including Simon D’Artois of France and Blunck’s teammate, David Wise, a perennial medalist with a laundry list of difficult tricks in his repertoire.
“David Wise is a very, very competitive person, so you know he’s always gunning for the top spot,” said Blunck, who hails from Crested Butte.
That competitive streak had earned Wise, a native of Reno, Nevada, four X Games golds and two Olympic golds, all in halfpipe.
“Sitting down at the bottom, it’s hope for the best, expect the worst,” Blunck said.
Fortunately for Blunck, his fear was unwarranted.
A stacked team
Among Blunck’s teammates, Wise and Alex Ferreira, of Aspen, had been cleaning up for most of the season, with Ferreira emerging from Wise’s shadow with a repeat Dew Tour win and his first X Games gold. However, Ferreira finished eighth, just behind Wise, with a score of 84.20. Neither of them let their disappointment show after the competition.
“I’m walking away happy and healthy, and that’s all you can ask for,” Ferreira said. “I’ve had a really great year. I’m really happy to be healthy and happy that I’ve been on top of the podium a few times.”
Ferreira said being a part of such a competitive U.S. squad is beneficial, even when he isn’t the one standing on the podium.
“It pushes us to go further, bigger, better and faster,” he said. “It’s really awesome to be part of one of the best teams, because you can really showcase your stuff, and you have people pushing you constantly.”
Wise concurred, saying the day’s skiing was “through the roof.”
“Any other day, if I had landed the caliber of runs that I had landed, I would have been on the podium today,” he said. “I felt like I got heavily deducted for some of my small, small mistakes. But sometimes you get points and sometimes you don’t. I’m still walking away today happy with how skiing as a whole performed and how I performed.”
Corning into slope final, Gerard just misses
Chris Corning of Silverthorne on Saturday bounced back from an injury at last month’s X Games in Aspen to qualify in the top spot for Sunday’s final round of the snowboard slopestyle competition at the 2019 FIS Snowboard, Freestyle & Freeski World Championships in Park City, Utah.
The 19-year-old topped the 58-rider qualification field with a score of 93.25, just ahead of last month’s X Games slopestyle champion and the man who bested him at last year’s Burton U.S. Open, Mark McMorris of Canada (93.00).
Corning qualified on his second and final run of the qualifying round after he earned a 38.00 on his first run. On that pivotal second run, Corning landed a 50-50 to a 270 off of the down-flat-down rail feature before executing a back 360 on the ensuing down rail and a backside rodeo off of the final feature in the jibs portion of the course.
On the jumps portion of the course, Corning landed a cab-900 with a tail grab and a front 1080 before putting the exclamation point on his run with a backside triple-cork 1440.
Corning’s top score meant he qualified directly through to Sunday’s finals, which are scheduled for 11 a.m. MST and will be broadcast live on the Olympic Channel. A tape-delay broadcast of the final will air at 2:30 p.m. MST on NBC.
Corning won’t be joined in the final by his fellow Summit County snowboarder and last year’s Olympic slopestyle gold-medal winner Red Gerard. The 18-year-old Gerard initially qualified out of the first round with a score of 81.25 on his first run. But that score only qualified Gerard through to Saturday’s later semifinal round. In that semifinal round, Gerard’s high score of a 72.50 just missed qualifying for Sunday’s final.
Corning will be joined in Sunday’s final by McMorris, American teen Judd Henkes (90.50), Japanese riders Hiroaki Kunitake (89.75) and Takeru Otsuka (89.50) and Dutch snowboarder Niek van der Velden (87.50).
The snowboarders that qualified to the finals from the semifinals included Norway’s Mons Roisland (83.75), Sebbe de Buck of Belgium (82.50) Finland’s Rene Rinnekangas (78.50) and Canadian Darcy Sharpe (75.75).
Antonio Olivero contributed to this story.
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