Competitors brought their A game to the finals of the FIS Australia New Zealand Cup Freeski & Snowboard Halfpipe presented by Cardrona Alpine Resort at the Winter Games NZ,
The judges had their work cut out for them all day long with competitors pushing their limits to earn their spot on the podium. Halfpipe judging criteria is based on trick variety, difficulty and execution as well as the amplitude a competitor can gain above the wall of the 22ft high pipe.
The skiers were the first to drop in to superpipe with the 10 men and eight women each taking three runs and their top score deciding the final results.
Top qualifier Jaxin Hoerter (USA) held the lead for the first two runs but run three turned out to be the decider for the top step on the podium. Cassidy Jarrell (USA) was the first to challenge for top honours, the technical difficulty of his back to back doubles and huge amplitude edging his score just above his countryman.
“I’ve never done that combination of tricks before in a competition and to get it on the first try was unreal. That was something really special for me,” said Cassidy.
Next came China’s Bingqiang Mao, coming back from a crash on his left double 1260 on the first hit of his second run, getting the trick down clean on run three and jumping in to first place.
Last to drop in for run three, Jaxin looked like he might be able to claim back the top ranking, going for a left alley oop double flat 720 but couldn’t execute and finished his day in third, Cassidy in second and Bingqiang taking the win.
In the Women’s Freeski field, top qualifier Eileen Gu (CHN) had victory in her sights right from her very first run with a score of 88.00. Valeriya Demidova (RUS), second place qualifier, was once again hot on Eileen’s heels, lifting her first run score of 85.00 to 86.66 on run two but couldn’t match the Chinese athlete on technical difficulty or amplitude and would finish her day in second place.
“This is the first time I’ve skied pipe since December so every time in the pipe is about going as hard as I can and having fun. I’m just very happy,” said 15-year-old Eileen after the competition.
Zoe Atkin (GBR) put down a solid second run, incorporating a tidy switch combo in the middle, to land herself in third place.
Chinese athletes took a clean sweep of the Women’s Snowboard podium with Xuetong Cai carrying her top qualifying form through to finals for a convincing 94.66 point win ahead of Shaotong Wu on 76.66.
“It feels really good,” said Xuetong, who as the current world number two, is no stranger to the podium.
Leng Qiu claimed the third spot on the podium on her final run of three, just nudging Australia’s Emily Arthur back in to fourth place
The Men’s Snowboard podium was decided on the very last run of the day when top qualifier Yiwei Zhang (CHN) called third time lucky and managed to land the run he’d been gunning for all day. His combo of front 900, back 900, front double 1080, cab double 1080 earned him a score of 91.00 and top step on the podium.
“That’s why it’s good to have three runs,” explained Yiwei after his final run.
Ziyang Wang CHN led the field for most of the day, staking his claim in the top three with a first run score of 84.00 but in the end would have to settle for second place.
13 year old Korean rider Chaeun Lee impressed the judges with the variety and difficulty of his tricks, landing 78.33 points for a well-executed front double 1080 indy, Haakon flip, Front 900 melon, Back 900 mute, Indy Air
NZ’s Rakai Tait tentatively held on to a third place spot until Yiwei’s final run pushed him off the podium in to fourth. The home crowd felt the weight of his disappointed when he stomped two technical runs in a row but failed to land the last trick on both his second and third runs.
Fletcher Craig (NZ) was also just outside the top placings, finishing his day in fifth place.