Red Gerard qualifies in top spot for Burton US Open slopestyle final
It was a terrific day for one Summit County snowboarding star and a tough one for another at the Burton U.S. Open at Vail Mountain Resort, as Red Gerard qualified through to Friday’s final, while Chris Corning came up one landing short from booking his ticket.
Facing tricky, flat light conditions, Gerard topped the qualifying field for Friday’s final with a score of 84.75 — nearly four points better than any of the 30 other riders who took to the slopestyle course on Vail’s Golden Peak.
“I’m just psyched I made it to finals, honestly,” Gerard said to snowboard legend and U.S. Open broadcast reporter Louie Vito. “I always just say I want to land a run and after that it’s up to everyone else. I’m psyched to be in finals and especially with such a heavy crew and all of my buddies.”
The 18-year-old Olympic slopestyle gold medalist earned the score on a second run that began with a boardslide to frontside boardslide fakie on the first rail feature. On the second rail feature, Gerard landed a half-cab 50-50 onto the rail before exiting with a backside 360 melon out. Then, on the third rail feature, Gerard earned his highest rail feature score (9.0) on a boardslide to a massive 810 out.
On the jumps portion of the course, Gerard began with a switch double-cork backside 1260. The move requires Gerard to ride opposite stance, rotate toward his board’s backside and invert twice on his two vertical axes while rotating for four-and-a-half 360-degree horizontal rotations. Gerard executed the trick with a mute grab before landing a huge frontside 1080 with a mute grab on the side-hit jump. Gerard concluded his top-scoring qualifying run by stomping a backside triple-cork 1440 with a mute grab.
“It’s pretty fun riding out here,” Gerard said to Vito moments after the run. “The U.S. Open always has the best courses, the most creative stuff. So, I guess I just kind of got juiced up from everyone (else). Everyone is ripping.”
Gerard snowboarded on Wednesday in the middle of the talented 30-plus rider pack after he failed to qualify through to the slopestyle finals at last year’s event. In 2018, it was Corning who nearly captured the event, finishing just hundredths of a point behind champion Mark McMorris of Canada. As such, Corning was the second-to-last rider to drop in to Wednesday’s qualifiers, just ahead of McMorris.
The 19-year-old from Silverthorne entered his second run riding with pressure after he failed to land a backside triple cork 1440 on the final jump of his first run. Outside of qualifying position on that second run, Corning technically rode through the rails portion of the course. The portion began with a seamless backside 270 rotation onto the first feature and a 270 off before landing a half cab 50-50 onto the second feature and a frontside 360 off. On the third rail feature, Corning executed a 50-50 onto the rail before landing his customary backside rodeo 540 off.
Transitioning from there into the jumps portion of the course, on that first jump Corning landed a flat-spin switch backside 1260 with a mute grab. On the side-hit second jump, Corning landed a frontside 1080 with a mute grab. But, riding out of that side-hit landing and into the final jump, Corning appeared to struggle a bit with speed before launching for his backside triple-cork 1440 with a melon grab. And, for the second time in as many runs, Corning wasn’t able to get the landing around, ending his 2019 Burton Open.
After his first run Corning told Vito that the level of riding was so high among the 31 riders that snowboarders of his level weren’t able to adjust to the difficult flat-light conditions by taming down their runs to qualify through.
“This, in my opinion, this is some of the hardest weather to ride in,” Corning said to Vito. “Because, in wind, you can kind of go for it and figure it out. Whereas in this (flat light), you have no idea what you are doing and everything is over-dramatic.”
Gerard will be joined in Friday’s 2 p.m. final by Japan’s Ruki Tobita (80.85) and Hiroaki Kunitake (80.70), Canada’s Darcy Sharpe (78.10) and McMorris (73.55), Norwegian star Stale Sandbech (77.35), Swedish rider Sven Thorgren (73.40) and fellow Americans Lyon Farrell (77.20), Luke Winkelmann (75.85) and Brock Crouch (72.30).
Though Gerard will be the final snowboarder dropping in for Friday’s final, he said he doesn’t view it as an advantage.
“No, honestly,” Gerard said, “that just feels like more pressure with me. But, I don’t know, it’s kind of cool. I’m psyched.”
Jamie Anderson misses women’s slope final
It’s going to be a young final in the women’s slopestyle competition at the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships on Friday. That is, if the final takes place.
American Julia Marino, who qualified in second place on Wednesday, said she attempted the best run she thought she could on Wednesday after hearing the uncertain weather forecast for Friday’s final. Marino said at the top of the course the riders were reminded “if finals didn’t happen, they would take these results.” Marino was one of several competitors to perform a twice inverted maneuver, the coveted “double cork,” once only performed by male competitors. Three riders who didn’t qualify — Jamie Anderson, Laurie Blouin and Jasmine Baird — also put double cork 900s to their feet on Wednesday. Marino is 21, which makes her the second oldest competitor in finals. Zoi Sadowski Synnott, 17, qualified in first.
“I remember at that age, I was the same too,” she said of competitors like Synnott and 17-year-old Annika Morgan of Germany, who made the six-person final in sixth position. “They’re more fearless and more confident.”
Enni Rukajarvi, 28, qualified in third place. Rukajarvi said with her experience has come a sense of style which she thinks the judges reward.
“I’d rather make everything look good,” she said. “It’s a really exciting time, there’s a lot of new young girls coming up, and they’re riding really good. But I’m still trying to keep with them.”
Miyabi Onitsuka, 20, qualified in fourth; Hailey Langland, 18, qualified in fifth.
John Laconte of the Vail Daily contributed to this report.
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