Kempainen victorious in U.S. Open |

Kempainen victorious in U.S. Open

ADAM BOFFEYSummit Daily News

Summit Daily/Eric Drummond

COPPER MOUNTAIN – When AJ Kempainen dropped into the superpipe at the finals of the U.S. Freeskiing Open on Sunday, he wasn’t thinking about the judges.”My specific goal was to ski for myself,” Kempainen said after winning the 11th annual competition with a score of 89.25. “I’ve learned during the last couple of days that if you ski for anyone else, you’re not going to win the contest.”Kempainen, an 18-year-old rising star from Finland, said he focused on landing his tricks smoothly, but also trying not to do too much.”I wanted to be have style and be smooth,” said the U.S. Open newcomer, who threw a switch 720 into a right side 9 during his winning run. “That’s what Tanner (Hall) did in the X Games.”Hall won last weekend at the X Games and last year at the U.S. Open, but wasn’t on hand this weekend at Copper.

Kempainen was joined on the podium by Copper Mountain rider Taylor Seaton (87.75 points) and Xavier Bertoni of France (87).Seaton, a 17-year-old resident of Avon, clearly relished the biggest win of his career thus far.”Making the finals was a big goal for me,” said Seaton, who executed an impressive octo 7 grab on Sunday. “After I made the finals, I definitely wanted to pump up and go for the win.”Seaton has been no stranger to Copper’s mighty halfpipe, especially over the last three days. “I’ve probably gotten 50 runs a day,” he said. “I get really comfortable with pipes, learn them really well and it’s kind of an advantage. It keeps me landing inside the walls.”

By landing on the podium out of nowhere, Seaton enhanced his pro skiing career. “Taking second or third gets your name out there and definitely gets you sponsors,” he said. “But winning it would definitely be a bigger deal.”The run that drew the most attention from competitors and spectators alike was laid down by Bertoni, who threw a switch 1080 and a regular 1080 on the same run.”I’ve landed the switch 1080 before,” Bertoni said. “But not in a competition. … Today was a very good day.””It was definitely the most technical thing thrown out here today,” confirmed local finalist Dan Marion. “I think if he had done any sort of grab on the switch 1080, it definitely would have sky rocketed his score. … But to be able to do both 1080s, that’s insane – I can’t do that.”

The insanity didn’t stop with Bertoni, according to Copper Mtn. skier Jon Cyrulik, who finished 13 overall in his first U.S Open finals appearance. “Everyone’s progressing so much,” the 23-year-old said. “It’s unpredictable – we’re seeing 1080s and 1260s and everyone out here is doing a 900 and that was unheard of three or four years ago. (Back then) a nine was your money trick.”Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at