Sweden’s Sven Thorgren, American Jamie Anderson top 2017 Burton US Open slope semis | SummitDaily.com

Sweden’s Sven Thorgren, American Jamie Anderson top 2017 Burton US Open slope semis

John LaConte
The Vail Daily

VAIL — Rail sliding into an inverted nosegrab with extra body extension for the cameras, Sven Thorgren took the top score in Wednesday's Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships slopestyle qualifiers. Jamie Anderson earned a nearly identical point total to Thorgren's to finish first for the women.

The top finishers received the final spot in today's finals, which will see the top-10 men and top-six women from Wednesday's semifinals take three attempts each at the Golden Peak course. The course was a departure from the standard slopestyle format, which usually consists of a few rails followed by a few jumps. Burton's 2017 course included multiple "transition" jumps — curved, quarterpipe-style features — and also broke up the jumps section near the end of the course with a rail slide cannon that shot riders toward the final jump.

Third-place men's qualifier Mikey Ciccarelli, of Canada, said the features in Vail this year made for a unique course on the slopestyle circuit during the 2016-17 season.

"It's not just the standard three jumps. You can change it up so much more this year," Ciccarelli said. "You have to think a lot harder about your run."

Many of the riders in the field were struggling to put clean runs together on the course, which was riding fast on hard snow with sunny skies overhead.

"It was kind of tricky because it was bad weather the last two days, so none of us really practiced that much," Ciccarelli said. "We had to show up this morning and just turn it on."

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PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Ciccarelli and fellow Canadian Spencer O'Brien both fell on their first runs. O'Brien said she had only hit the course's final jump two times before dropping in for her first run in semifinals. Nevertheless, she was able to land a clean run on her second and final attempt and qualify in third. American Hailey Landland, who had high expectations coming into this year's Burton U.S. Open after winning gold in the X Games big air competition in January, failed to land a clean run in either of her attempts and didn't make finals.

"I've been coming here for three years and still haven't landed a run yet," she said.

Canadian Sebastien Toutant, a former Burton U.S. Open slopestyle winner who qualified eighth on Wednesday, said he only had one hour before semifinals to figure out his run.

"I think what makes it really hard is not having that much practice, and having to wait an hour between runs," Toutant said. "I was dropping near to the last, so I had to wait for 30 riders to drop in, then do my run. Then I fell on the first run so I had a lot of pressure on the second; I really wanted to land because this contest is so special."

Belgian rider Sebbe De Buck said with other riders struggling to land, he put strategy into play and amended his original run for something he was more likely to land.

"I definitely stepped down my run that I had in my head, just because I saw a lot of people not landing," he said. "I was watching and played it safe for my second run."

'THEY ALWAYS WANT MORE'

With Kyle Mack, who won last year's Burton U.S. Open slopestyle competition, unable to compete this year due to a hurt ankle, the favorite for the competition was Mark McMorris, who won the Open in 2013 and 2014. McMorris finished second behind Thorgren, saying he was happy to make finals but disappointed in the judging.

"I should have had (the top score) on my first run. Nobody else did a triple," he said of his fourth trick, a backside triple cork 1440. "They always want to see more of me, it feels like. It's all good though, I made it into the finals and it will be fun."

The major advantage of finishing semifinals in first is taking on the course last in finals. Competitors will get three shots at the course; a good finals run early on can result in a victory lap, or unnecessary last run for the first-place qualifier from semifinals. Conversely, the winning semifinals competitor will always get the final shot at the win in finals if he or she has not already secured victory. McMorris has taken a few victory laps during his time.

"It is nice if you get that victory lap, if you land a good run off the top," McMorris said.

Toutant said Wednesday he's going to spend all day today practicing his finals run.

"Hopefully tomorrow we'll have a really good day so I can practice the run I want to do for finals," he said.

Men's slopestyle finals are scheduled for 2 p.m. today, with the women scheduled to start dropping into the course at 11:10 a.m.

Burton US Open SLOPESTYLE

Finals start list

Finals take place today at Golden Peak, beginning at 11:10 a.m. with women and 2 p.m. with men. Entry is free for spectators.

Men

1. Sven Thorgren, SWE — 80.60

2. Mark McMorris, CAN — 79.70

3. Michael Ciccarelli, CAN — 78.40

4. Mons Roisland, NOR — 76.55

5. Brandon Davis, USA — 74.90

6. Sebbe DeBuck, BEL — 73.85

7. Redmond Gerard, USA — 72.30 (SILVERTHORNE)

8. Sebastien Toutant, CAN — 71.05

9. Stale Sandbech, NOR — 69.65

10. Chris Corning, USA — 69.50

Women

1. Jamie Anderson, USA — 80.55

2. Anna Gasser, AUT — 79.60

3. Spencer O’Brien, CAN — 77.10

4. Miyabi Onitsuka , JPN — 74.00

5. Julia Marino, USA — 70.90

6. Enni Rukajarvi, FIN — 70.05