Bronze in Beijing: Aspen’s Alex Ferreira wins second Olympic medal in halfpipe skiing |

Bronze in Beijing: Aspen’s Alex Ferreira wins second Olympic medal in halfpipe skiing

Austin Colbert
The Aspen Times
Aspen’s Alex Ferreira executes a trick in the halfpipe finals Dec. 18, 2021, during the Dew Tour freestyle skiing event at Copper Mountain Resort. On Friday night, he won Olympic bronze in Beijing.
Hugh Carey/The Associated Press

Mother Nature couldn’t bring enough wind, nor could Nico Porteous do enough spins, to bring down the good vibes felt by Aspen’s Alex Ferreira after he won Olympic bronze in men’s halfpipe skiing on Friday night at the Beijing Games.

Only nine months ago, the 27-year-old had surgery to fix two pinched nerves in his neck that had been causing him intense pain for more than a year. To end up on the Olympic podium for a second time — he won silver four years ago in Pyeongchang — was more than he could have asked for.

“No one liked me. I didn’t like me, because I was just demoralized every day in such horrible pain. I’m just happy to be out of pain and alive,” Ferreira told reporters after the final in Zhangjiakou, which is about 100 miles from Beijing. “Once I started getting healthy from that, I just started small, going on little walks, little runs, then major bike rides, then the trampoline every day, and I just started to get motivated again. I started to feel like me again. I started to be happy and just live my life.”

Despite the gusty conditions that at times overshadowed the final, Ferreira’s first-run score of 86.75 was enough for bronze in the three-run format that saw all the podium results come from that first run through the Genting Snow Park halfpipe.

New Zealand’s Porteous won Olympic gold behind his back-to-back 1620 combo — he won bronze in 2018 — while Nevada’s David Wise won silver, ending his reign as the Olympic champion after winning gold in 2014 and 2018. It was the exact same podium as from Pyeongchang four years ago, only in a different order.

“I stomped what I knew,” Porteous said about performing in the frigid and windy conditions. “Tried my best and left everything out there. … It’s so freezing cold right now; I’m lost for words.”

Porteous wasted no time putting down his 1620 combo — something he did for the first time at X Games Aspen in 2021 — for a 93 that held on through the three rounds. Wise scored 90.75 on his highly technical first run, which held down the top spot until Porteous went two skiers later.

Porteous, 20, is currently the reigning Olympic champion, world champion and two-time reigning X Games Aspen champion.

The skiers admitted that the wind, reported to be around 15 mph — not to mention a wind chill of around minus 26 degrees — limited the runs they could do. Ferreira said his runs were about 85% of his best due to the weather.

“Very tough conditions today. I worked my absolute cheeks off. I gave it my 100%, every single thing that I had I put into those runs, so I’m just so grateful to be standing on the podium,” Ferreira said. “Everybody in the field planned out much more difficult runs, but when we have this kind of wind and this kind of conditions, you just have to do the best you can possibly do, and I came out there and I did my best.”

Canada’s Noah Bowman was fourth followed by Winter Park’s Birk Irving in fifth, France’s Kevin Rolland in sixth and Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck in seventh. The 25-year-old Blunck has finished seventh in all three of his Olympic appearances.

The Telluride-raised Gus Kenworthy, competing for his mother’s homeland of Great Britain, finished eighth. He crashed on his first two runs but scored 71.25 on his third run, which was likely the last of his career. The 30-year-old, who won slopestyle silver at the 2014 Games, said he will retire after these Olympics.

Ferreira scored 86.75 on his first run behind four double corks. He upped the difficulty in his second and third runs, pairing a double cork 1620 with a double cork 1440, but missed grabs didn’t sit well with the judges, scoring 83.75 and 67.75 to close out his contest.

Thankfully for him, that first run was enough to go home with another medal.

“I’m a workhorse. Every day, all day, I’m just there. I’m at the trampoline, I’m at the water ramps, I’m at the gym, and the people who know me closest, they know,” Ferreira said. “Extremely happy, extremely grateful to get the job done. Being on the podium — that’s my second Olympics, two medals — I consider that a ‘W’ if you ask me.”

Porteous was the overwhelming favorite coming into the contest and laid it all out there on his first run. His 1620 combo is currently unmatched by his competitors and puts him at the forefront of progression in men’s halfpipe skiing.

Prior to going to China, Ferreira admitted it was Porteous who provided him with the inspiration for learning the double cork 1620 — that’s four-and-a-half rotations, plus the two inversions, or corks — in the lead-up to the Games.

“It’s so hard for the younger generation to break through, but it’s also hard for the older generation to keep up,” Ferreira said. “For me, I’m right in that middle ground where I’m a little bit older, but I’m also still gunning. I still feel like a kid, and I still want to keep that energy and keep learning and growing and doing my best.”

Getting to the Beijing Games was a trying journey for the Aspen kid, who grew up with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and still lives just down the road at Aspen Highlands. He was hoping to end up a few steps higher on the podium, but all things considered, that bronze is as good as gold.

“My goal was to get the gold, and I wasn’t able to accomplish that today, but being on the podium in such tough conditions, honestly, I feel like I got the gold,” Ferreira said. “That’s two Olympics with two medals. It’s two-fer. I feel so happy and so grateful to be here. It’s a good day.”

Alex Ferreira signs the helmet of an Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athlete after the Olympic sendoff Jan. 26 in Aspen before heading to Beijing for his second Olympics.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

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