New blood sends old egos packing at Open
VAIL – New blood was injected into the spotlight during Friday’s men’s slopestyle final at the U.S. Freeskiing Open, but not without a few egos being wounded in the process.
Unheralded T.J. Schiller banked the $7,500 first-place check with the best run of the day – an 85 – dethroning two-time slopestyle champ Tanner Hall of Mammoth, Calif., who ended up fourth.
Henrik Windstedt of Sweden finished in second, and virtual unknown Tanner Rainville took third.
“I wouldn’t say I took it away from him,” said Schiller when asked about beating out Hall, one of his teammates with Armada skis. “We’re just doing it for the team. You’ve got to represent. We just did our own thing and kept up what we did all of practice, not really thinking about the weather or the poor lighting. We just kept thinking about the good stuff.”
The lighting was a factor in Friday’s event, as long qualifying heats continued to prolong the finals’ start time. Eventually, organizers reformatted the competition, so that instead of all 12 competitors getting two runs, only the top six riders from the first final heat would get another run with the sun slowly being swallowed up into the night sky.
Hall, fresh off a slopestyle gold medal at the Winter X Games VIII in Aspen and wearing the No. 1 bib, did have two impressive runs in the finals, tearing through the rails at the top of the course and throwing clean corked spins off the bottom booters.
But, it wasn’t enough to even garner a spot on the podium.
It was enough, though, to make Hall give the Open officials a piece of his mind as he ripped into founder Michael Jacquet after the final results were
Rainville, a true unknown before this weekend’s event, was the crowd favorite, earning a podium spot with a score of 81.25 in his first Open, despite the fact that nobody even knew where he was from.
Euro women dominate
It’s called the U.S. Freesking Open, but the flavor of the women’s slopestyle finals at Golden Peak on Friday was definitely European.
All three of the podium spots were nabbed by Euro-skiers, with Grete Eliassen of Norway walking away with the big, first-place cardboard-check of $25,000.
“I guess I get some money now,” said Eliassen jokingly after being shown her first-place ranking on the scoreboard.
Eliassen, who is originally from the North Star State of Minnesota, but has called Norway home for the last four years, beat out France’s Marie Martinaud and Switzerland’s Virginie Fairre.
The best thing about Eliassen’s win is that it almost never happened. With the day’s schedule running over by nearly three hours, Eliassen decided to go ski some moguls with her visiting aunt, and missed her appointed start time in the first round of the women’s finals.
When she did finally show up to the top of the course – in the middle of the men’s final – she pleaded with event organizers to be able to take her first run.
Eliassen was allowed to squeeze in between male riders Rory Bushfield and second-place finisher Henrik Windstedt to put down what was the best female run of the day.
Eliassen made sure to not disappoint after being granted new life, riding smoothly from start to finish and unleashing a huge 720-safety grab off the last kicker that wooed the crowd at the bottom and bolted her into first-place.
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