Breckenridge snowboarder Eric Willett tops Park City US Grand Prix podium
A little over a year removed from breaking his back during a training run at Olympic qualifiers at Copper Mountain Resort, Breckenridge snowboarder Eric Willett showed he was back on top of his game.
The 27-year-old X Games and Dew Tour medalist claimed the top podium spot in snowboard slopestyle at the final stop of the 2015 U.S. Grand Prix series in Park City, Utah, Friday.
“Today is friggin’ amazing,” Willett said in a U.S. Snowboarding Team interview after the competition. “I haven’t had this feeling in so long.”
Willett was in contention to make the Olympic team when the crash occurred in December 2013 — also at a U.S. Grand Prix event — cutting his season short. Willett returned to snow in spring 2014 and spent last summer getting back into form, training in Australia and New Zealand.
Willett went into Friday’s finals as the No. 2 seed behind Finland’s Tuomas Pohhjonen. The win came on a high-pressure third and final run as second-to-last to drop. Willett threw down a series of well orchestrated rail slides capped by a 1260 with a mute grab and a switch backside 1080, earning a 95.25 score.
Willett was joined on the podium by his friends and U.S. teammates Chas Guldemond (92.5) and Eric Beauchemin (87.5) in second and third, respectively.
“To actually have all three of us on the podium — all good friends — it couldn’t be any better,” Willett said.
The Netherlands’ Cheryl Maas won women’s slopestyle with an 87.75, followed by American Karly Shorr (87.75) and Switzerland’s Elena Koenz.
American men sweep skier slopestyle
Men’s snowboarders weren’t the only ones to offer up a sweep over the weekend.
American freeskiers did the same on Friday, led by Sochi Olympic gold medalist Joss Christensen. Christensen also needed all three runs to earn the win in front of his home crowd in Park City.
“Usually you want to get that first one out of the way, but today I fell on my first two, which doesn’t happen to me too often,” Christensen said. “So I just went for it, and I’m glad I went for it because it worked out.”
Fellow Park City local McRae Williams took second, followed by Sochi silver medalist Gus Kenworthy of Telluride. Kenworthy also went on to win Saturday’s halfpipe competition. Breckenridge locals James Woods, of Great Britain, and Bobby Brown, of the U.S., finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
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