Upstart Olenick generates "hometown’ heroics
ASPEN – Only one thing could have overshadowed Tanner Hall’s three-peat in the skier slopestyle event Sunday at the X Games. That was some hometown heroics.
Carbondale skier Peter Olenick provided them with a near flawless run that yielded a silver medal in his first X Games appearance.
Olenick did not ski like a rookie on a weather-affected day of competition at Buttermilk Mountain, scoring 93.33 out of 100, less than one point behind superstar Hall.
“I was at home, so I could be a little more relaxed,” Olenick said. “That was the best run I could have done.”
Olenick qualified for the Winter X Games earlier this month at the Last Chance Qualifier in Breckenridge.
He recovered from a ski-releasing crash in his first finals run with a second run that included several switch-stance (backward) takeoffs and a huge corked 900 on the final kicker.
There’s no shame in finishing second to Hall, whose legend grew with his third consecutive slopestyle gold medal at the Winter X Games.
Now representing his own ski company – Armada – the Montana native’s new-school prowess is undisputed.
“Every year I want to do well and stay consistent and let people know there’s no slipping,” Hall said.
Hall’s emotions spilled over after an immaculate final run; he celebrated wildly with his family and friends at the base of the course. It was a rollercoaster day for him, much of it caused by the nasty weather that blew through the valley Sunday.
In the preliminaries, Hall threw up his hands midrun, protesting to judges about the impossibility of the conditions.
Visibility – on a course with several technical rails and big-gapped kickers – was a problem, as was fighting new snow to get the speed to clear landings.
Hall bailed out in frustration in his second preliminary run and counted on his first to carry him into the finals (the top 10 skiers made the cut). For a while, the fate of the entire competition was up in the air.
“A lot of people were sounding crazy to me with some of the decisions they wanted to do,” Hall said. “They were gonna cancel the contest and take the first run as the final.”
Aspen native Steele Spence, the other hometown favorite Sunday, was caught at the top when the storm strengthened. He and Copper Mountain skier Nick Mercon had to wait nearly a half hour to complete their preliminary runs. Spence, who was a surprise fourth in this event last year, finished two spots out of the finals in 12th. Mercon was 16th.
“I was just waiting up top just watching the snow build up,” Spence said. “All I could see was grey.”
Conditions improved significantly for the finals, when Hall shook off what he thought was a low score in his first finals run and came through with a cathartic – and winning – final run.
“I pushed it as hard as I could, and it worked out,” he said.
Jon Olsson from Sweden pulled of a three-peat of his own with a bronze-medal finish for the third straight year. France’s Laurent Favre was fourth, and Californian C.R. Johnson was fifth.
Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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