Mercon leads the way at qualifier | SummitDaily.com

Mercon leads the way at qualifier

Jason Starr

BRECKENRIDGE – Nick Mercon just earned priceless amounts of exposure.

No matter how the Copper freeskier fares at the Games, just being there is a career enhancer.

Mercon won a spot on the Games slopestyle start list with a win Saturday at the Breckenridge Qualifier at the Peak 8 terrain park. The Games have become freeskiing’s premier competition, mostly because of the amount of national television time devoted to the ESPN-hosted event, and Mercon is happy to be part of the show.

“It’s just good to go, good to keep all my sponsors happy,” he said. “I’ll go out there and give it my best shot. So many people see it, it definitely helps.”

Mercon tied atop the podium Saturday with Aspen’s Steele Spence. Rory Silva and Chris Booth grabbed the other two Games spots out of a field of more than 100.

For the 19-year-old Spence, it was a must win. As a lifelong Aspen resident, he could not imagine having to watch from the bottom as other skiers competed on his home mountain.

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“It was a lot of pressure,” he said. “I’m glad I made it. It’s all I’ve been hearing about for the last few weeks.”

The Games start Thursday at Buttermilk Mountain just outside of Aspen. The skier slopestyle takes place the first day of competition.

Saturday’s course began with an angled rail, flowed into three big kickers and a quarterpipe and ended with a C-shaped rail. Mercon won with a combination of 700- and- 900-degree spins, all off-axis and all with grabs. He hit the quarterpipe with his signature “toxic avenger” and ended by riding the C rail smooth to the finish, something few other competitors could do.

It’s the same slopestyle run he’s been toying with at the Copper terrain park all season, and it’s the one he’ll use Thursday at the Games.

“It’s the same run that’s been carrying me through,” Mercon said. “There are slight variations, but nothing significant. I just wanted to get through it smooth and clean.”

What was good enough to win Saturday may not be Thursday against the best park skiers in the world. Tanner Hall, C.R. Johnson, Jon Olsson and Candid Thovex are among those pre-qualified for the competition.

“It’ll be a higher level of competition,” said Spence, who was seventh at last year’s Games slopestyle. “It will be similar but still a higher level.”

Saturday’s field was whittled from 130 to 12 for the finals. Each skier got two runs with only the better run counting. Today at the Breckenridge halfpipe, skiers will compete for three Games spots. Finals are scheduled for 2:30 p.m.