Teen Kelly Sildaru earns X Games slopestyle gold, holds most by any athlete 17-younger
ASPEN — Kelly Sildaru should just change her last name to Slopestyle.
The 17-year-old out of Estonia has won every X Games women’s ski slopestyle competition since 2016, except for 2018, when she didn’t attend the games. Her dominance in the discipline rooted deeper into the hillside at Buttermilk as she won her fourth gold in the event Sunday afternoon and second of the weekend.
Commentators claim Sildaru’s rail work was the difference, but even the skier said she isn’t sure what makes her so successful in slopestyle.
“I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet,” Sildaru said. “I’m just trying to enjoy it and have fun skiing.”
On Friday, Sildaru took gold in the superpipe. With the wins, she now has nine X Games medals, tying Shaun White for most earned by a teenage athlete. With five golds, she is the sole holder of the most gold medals by any athlete 17 or younger.
She’s also just the third athlete this weekend to walk away with a pair of gold medals, alongside unified snowboarder and snow biker Mike Schulz and skier Colby Stevenson who won both the ski knuckle huck and slopestyle competitions.
Her second run was her strongest as she pulled out a rightside 900 with a mute grab, followed by a leftside 900 with a tail grab. She ended the run with a rightside 720 off the fin, the most rotation any skier got off the feature at the time.
Swiss skier Sarah Hoefflin and Sildaru exchanged spots in the leader’s seat until after the third trip down the course, when Sildaru took over for good.
Hoefflin sat in second place and tried to put down her best stuff for her last run, but couldn’t stick the landing on her second jump. Her less-than-perfect run kept her in second.
With just the defending champion left to drop in, Sildaru’s final run was more of a victory lap. She didn’t play it safe though, sticking a switch 1260 on the last jump.
“I just tried to enjoy the course and make the most of it,” she said.
Hoefflin’s silver brings her 2020 medal count to three, the most by any athlete as of Sunday afternoon. She earned bronze in unified skiing as well as ski big air.
The battle for third in slopestyle was dramatic, as Montana native Maggie Voisin and Isabel Atkin out of Park City went back and forth in the standings after each run. Sitting in a podium spot with one run remaining, Voisin “upped her rail game” with a 450 switch in her last pass through the course.
“Today was just the perfect day,” the 21-year-old said. “For me, it’s realizing sometimes in practice I’m not going to put it all together, taking a deep breath and knowing that when the pressure is on, I have it.”
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