Colorado athletes shine bright on the final day of the U.S. Grand Prix and Visa Big Air competitions
Summit’s Chris Corning places 2nd in men’s big air, Winter Park’s Birk Irving wins men’s freeski halfpipe
After a week of jaw-dropping tricks and inspiring athletic performances, the 2022 Toyota U.S. Grand Prix and Visa Big Air snowboard and skiing competitions concluded at Copper Mountain Resort on Saturday, Dec. 17.
The state of Colorado was well represented on the final day of competition with five athletes calling Colorado home including Silverthorne’s Chris Corning who competed in the men’s snowboard big air competition.
Men’s snowboard big air final
The men’s snowboard big air final could best be described as a boxing match between Corning and Norway’s Marcus Kleveland.
Right after Kleveland failed to land a backside 1620, Corning successfully delivered the first blow by landing a huge backside 1800 with a melon grab. The trick earned Corning a score of 92.25 from the judges, skyrocketing him to first place for the time being.
“It was a good run,” Corning said. “I was super nervous at the top because I haven’t done that back 1800 on a jump like this one. I was real nervous about it but glad I put it down.”
Kleveland had an answer for Corning on his second run, executing a beautiful 1800 with an indy grab to receive a 93.25 from the judges.
On Corning’s second run he landed a switch backside 1620 with a Weddle grab, but the trick only earned him a score of 80.25.
With a combined score of 172.50, Corning sat in first place going into the final run with Kleveland lurking in a nearby second. Kleveland went big on his final run, stomping a unique nollie backside 1080 with a tail grab.
The unique style and flair earned Kleveland a score of 91, bringing his combined score to 184.25, over 12 points ahead of Corning.
Realizing he needed a massive score to beat Kleveland, Corning performed a method air on his final run to finish in second place with a score of 172.50.
“Pretty much I had no trick that would give me 12 points,” Corning said. “My 1620 was an 80 so 12 points on top of that was highly unlikely. The judges kind of put me in a hole there so I just had to take it.”
The second-place finish at Copper on Saturday marks Corning’s second second-place finish in the past two weeks. Corning placed second behind Australia’s Valentino Guseli last Saturday night at Edmonton’s Style Experience big air competition on Dec. 10.
“It is a really good start to the season,” Corning said. “It is a tough situation because I am happy to be there but also not happy at all. It’s two second places in a row where I had a good chance of winning so I am going to try to figure some things out and hopefully bring home the win in the next one.”
Behind Kleveland and Corning, Italian 16-year-old Ian Matteoli placed third with a combined score of 160.
North Carolina’s Luke Winkelmann finished in seventh place with a combined score of 125.50.
Women’s snowboard big air final
In the women’s snowboard big air final it was American Olympian Hailey Langland that stole the show.
After being extremely nervous leading up to the final, Langland flew high into the air to successfully land a cab 1080 with an indy grab. The trick was one of the biggest tricks Langland has been able to land in her career and the judges awarded her with a score of 90.25.
“I feel so grateful,” Langland said. “I haven’t had a score like that in a long time. I didn’t actually get to practice that today so that was kind of a Hail Mary and see how it did. I am so fortunate that I was able to land it because even in the air I was thinking there is no way that I am going to ride away from this.”
With a burst of confidence behind her, Langland launched into a frontside 720 with a melon grab on her second run. The trick brought her combined score to 151.50 to maintain her spot in first place.
However, Japanese rider Mari Fukada climbed her way to the top of the podium with a frontside double underflip 900 with an indy grab. The trick earned Fukada a score of 74.25 which combined with her first run score of 81.50 for a total of 155.75.
Langland had an opportunity to try to go bigger on her final run in response to Fukada but failed to put a clean run together and placed second overall.
“I tried something crazy on the third run which hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have, but I am super happy with how I rode today and I am super stoked,” Langland said.
Behind Langland, Japan’s Miyabi Onitsuka placed third with a combined score of 149.75.
America’s Julia Marino placed sixth with a total score of 91.75 while Courtney Rummel placed eighth with a score of 66.50.
Women’s freeski halfpipe final
The women’s freeski halfpipe final was stacked with American talent. Making up half of the field, the women’s final featured 2022 Olympian from Basalt Hanna Faulhaber, Winter Park’s Svea Irving as well as seasoned veteran Brita Sigourney and Mammoth Lakes’ Carly Margulies.
Irving started things off big for the American women, having a huge first run and scoring 76.50 to rival the scores of Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru and Canada’s Amy Fraser.
On her second run, Irving tried to top her first attempt. Irving drifted high above the superpipe walls, but it was not enough to earn a better score.
Irving placed fourth overall as the top American in the competition with a top run of 76.50.
Faulhaber attempted to work her way up in the rankings the entire competition but could not find a way to string a good run together. Faulhaber fell on her first and third runs to earn a top score of 57.75. The score was good enough for sixth place.
Like Faulhaber, Sigourney was also not able to put a completely clean run together. Sigourney scored 54.75 on her first run to place seventh.
Margulies placed eighth after pulling herself from the competition due to an undisclosed injury.
Canada’s Rachael Karker placed first with a score of 89.50, Fraser placed second and Sildaru placed third.
Men’s freeski halfpipe final
The final showdown of the week occurred in the men’s freeski halfpipe final where Winter Park’s Birk Irivng and Aspen’s Alex Ferreira vied for a podium finish.
Two-time Olympic silver medalist Ferreira got the action going with a spectacular first run. Ferreira put together a cork 1080, double cork 1260 and a switch double right 1080 to score 87 on his first run.
In classic Ferreira fashion, the reigning 2022 Olympic silver medalist put together another outstanding run on his second attempt. Ferreira scored 90.25 on his second run to secure the first-place position for the time being.
With someone to chase, the rest of the competition rose to the occasion in order to top Ferreira. After scoring 89.25 and 38.25 on his first two runs, Irving successfully landed a double cork 1440 and a double flatspin 720 to score 93.75.
The score was enough for Irivng to outlast Ferreira and Canada’s Brendan Mackay and Noah Bowman.
“Third is never a safe place to be,” Irving said of his mentality heading into his winning run. “You are never safe in any position. I have done (the run) a couple times before today but wasn’t sure I was going to need it. In the third round I was like, yeah definitely going to need it.”
Mackay placed second behind Irving with a top run score of 92.50 while Bowman placed third with a score of 91.
Ferreira finished in fourth and Oregon’s Hunter Hess placed eighth.
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