Youngsters and first-timers dominate ski, snowboard slope at X Games ender
ASPEN — In a weekend where many new stars were born, the final day of X Games Aspen 2017 didn’t deviate from that trend.
Adding his name to a list of rising stars that includes Hailey Langland and Julia Marino, Norwegian teenager Marcus Kleveland left Buttermilk on Sunday with his second X Games medal, winning the men’s snowboard slopestyle contest.
“This weekend couldn’t have gone any better,” Kleveland said. “I would never have thought I would get a podium, especially in slopestyle.”
Kleveland, 17, made his X Games debut in his home country, taking 12th in big air at Oslo 2016. Snowboarder Magazine’s 2016 “Rookie of the Year,” Kleveland made his X Games Aspen debut Friday, where he took silver in the men’s snowboard big air competition. His 82 was only a point short of gold medalist Max Parrot and well ahead of the 73 scored by bronze medalist Mark McMorris.
That silver medal would have been enough for the X Games Aspen rookie. Instead, Friday’s podium only made things easier for Kleveland on Sunday.
“It was definitely a weight off my shoulder,” Kleveland said of his big air medal. “It definitely helped me a lot with the nerves today.”
Kleveland went eighth in the 12-man slopestyle field Sunday, each rider getting two runs to prove he was the best. X Games rookie Brock Crouch set the bar with an 82.33 on his first run, a score that held the top spot until Kleveland’s 91.66 set a new gold standard.
McMorris, the Canadian superstar who has four X Games gold medals in slopestyle (he has two more in big air), scored 87.33 on his first run. The reigning slopestyle gold medalist was competing in his first X Games since breaking his femur at Shaun White’s Air + Style event nearly a year ago.
Parrot was third after a run with 84.33.
Kleveland’s second run also was impressive, but the 85 didn’t improve his score. So, he was left to wait as some of the sport’s top athletes each had one more go to jump him on the podium.
“Not improving on my last score, just standing down there is the worst. Because all the best riders are left to drop,” Kleveland said. “You are always standing with your heart in your throat. It’s scary to stand down there, looking at everybody riding. You don’t want them to fail, but at the same time you kind of want (them to) because you don’t want to lose the podium.”
Fortunately for Kleveland, no one could top his first run. Second-year X Games athlete Tyler Nicholson of Canada scored 89 on his second run, going right before Kleveland, to jump into second, but his run was the only to seriously threaten Kleveland.
Parrot scored 19.66 on his final run, McMorris received 48 and last year’s slopestyle silver medalist Sebastien Toutant got only 38.66.
“It was pretty stressful. But I just trusted that the outcome was going to be what it was,” Nicholson said of waiting around to see if his second run would hold for a podium spot. “I’m ecstatic right now. It doesn’t even seem real. This has been my childhood dream watching this contest since I was like, 5 years old. I never thought I’d get a medal.”
Nicholson’s second run did hold, with him taking silver for his first X Games medal. McMorris’ first run gave him bronze, with Stale Sandbech taking fourth and Parrot fifth. Toutant finished ninth.
Sildaru repeats gold
Kelly Sildaru, the 14-year-old from Estonia who made history in 2016 by becoming the youngest winter athlete to win a gold medal at 13 years, 11 months, defended her women’s ski slopestyle gold Sunday, edging France’s Tess Ledeux, an X Games rookie.
Sildaru laid down runs of 92.33 and 91.33, making it look easy even though she claimed her small frame caused her problems.
“I wanted to do a better run, but because I’m so light, then I have speed problems,” Sildaru said. “But it ended up well. … I’m super happy.”
Ledeux scored 90 on her first run, which held for silver, while Johanne Killi of Norway took home her second consecutive bronze with 85.66. Montana’s Maggie Voisin was fifth and Vermont’s Devin Logan seventh, the only two Americans in the competition.
Canada’s Kaya Turski, who has five X Games gold medals in slopestyle, withdrew from Sunday’s competition after a hard crash in training.
For Sildaru, Sunday’s gold was her second medal of the weekend after she took silver in Saturday’s women’s ski big air competition.
No go for snowmobile double backflip
X Games Aspen 2017 came to a close Sunday afternoon with the snowmobile best trick contest, won by Daniel Bodin with his second-run score of 85.33. Brett Turcotte was second with 83.33 and Joe Parsons third with 77.66.
Heath Frisby and Colten Moore, who each attempted to land the first double backflip in X Games snowmobile history, came up short in their attempts. Frisby broke his snowmobile on his first attempt and did not try for a second attempt. Moore’s attempt was more costly, as he was taken to the hospital complaining of back pain.
Moore’s brother Caleb died at X Games 2013 from a crash during the freestyle contest.
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