Breckenridge: 2014 Dew Tour heats up with first day of men’s qualifiers
If there is such a thing as an Olympic hangover — the idea that athletes take some downtime or don’t perform as well following an Olympic year — the snowboarding and freeskiing world apparently didn’t get the memo.
Men’s snowboarders and freeskiers took to the Dew Tour halfpipe and slopestyle course at Breckenridge for the first of two days of qualifiers Thursday, and by all accounts threw down bigger, more competitive runs than ever.
“This year has been nuts. Everyone has been coming out blazing,” U.S. freeski slopestyle gold medalist Joss Christensen said Thursday. “It’s crazy the level of skiing right now, competition is so high compared to a year ago.”
Christensen took the 10th spot in Thursday’s slopestyle qualifiers, sneaking into the finals and avoiding the Last Chance Qualifier round. After a first-run score of 73.00, the Dew Tour and X Games veteran was on the outside looking in, and as one of the last to drop, needed a strong second run to qualify.
“It was pretty stressful sitting up top and watching 28 other people drop,” he said of waiting for his second run. “I’m really stoked I put it down and just glad I snuck in. I didn’t think I was going to make it today.”
With the Dew Tour’s new format, 10 skiers qualify for the final after the first two rounds, while the next 10 finishers then vie for two additional finals spots with a third run.
Following his second run, Christensen hung around to cheer on his Park City, Utah, roommate Mcrae Williams, who was able to grab the last of the two spots after scoring an 89.00 in his third run.
Breckenridge hometown favorite and Christensen’s Olyimpic teammate Bobby Brown missed the cut, scoring just 0.75 less than Williams in his third run.
Brown finished the first two qualifying runs in 15th place with an 80.75, which in a less competitive field might have been enough to qualify.
Christensen will be joined in the finals by his Olympic podium-mates Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper. The three completed a U.S. podium sweep in skier slopestyle’s first Olympic appearance last February.
Goepper finished Thursday’s qualifier in second — after a strong second run — behind Norway’s Oystein Braten. Kenworthy, a Telluride native, finished fifth.
“I’m pretty stoked,” Kenworthy said after his second run, adding, “I definitely think I could have done my run a little better,” looking ahead to Sunday’s finals.
Along with Brown, heavy hitters Russ Henshaw, of Australia, and James Woods, of Great Britain, also failed to qualify for the final.
SNOWBOARD HALFPIPE GOES DOWN TO THE WIRE
The Dew Tour’s new Last Chance Qualifier format made for a thrilling conclusion to Thursday’s men’s snowboard halfpipe competition with the final seven riders making strong attempts to unseat one another in their last run. With 2010 Olympian Louie Vito throwing down a big final run as the last to drop, Sochi Olympian Taylor Gold’s grasp of the final qualifying spot looked tenuous. But Gold’s 87.75 held, with Vito falling a point short.
The biggest story of the round went to Gold’s teammate Danny Davis, who only earned a spot in the last-chance round when a rider ahead of him dropped out.
“It didn’t go that well,” Davis said, laughing about his first two runs, “and then I got on my angry chairlift ride and I got 10 calls. I was almost like, ‘I don’t want it,’” he said of his second chance.
“It feels a little weird,” he said after scoring a 91.75 in his third run. “It feels like a second life.”
Sochi silver and bronze medalists Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka, of Japan, also qualified for the finals, along with Gold’s Sochi teammate Greg Bretz and Breckenridge’s Brett Esser.
The men’s snowboard halfpipe finals will take place Saturday at 11 a.m.
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