Wise makes history in Olympic halfpipe
Men’s freestyle ski halfpipe has now been held twice in Winter Olympic history — the event, however, has only one champion.
Reno’s David Wise made sure of that on Thursday, Feb. 22, defending his gold medal from 2014 with a monster final run to claim gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Wise, 27, crashed on his first two runs, but came up huge in his last run. The Reno skier went on to cap a near flawless final run with a double cork (two distinct off axis rotations) 1260 for a first-place score of 97.20.
“I was hoping to have three runs to kind of work things in; sometimes you have a little bit of a bad landing or whatever — you get a little bit better run by run,” said Wise in a statement from U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “But I had to put it all on the line on run three, and I’m stoked I put it down.”
Fellow American Alex Ferreira, 23, of Aspen, Colo., took silver with a score of 96.40. New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, 16, was third with a score of 94.80.
“What a day,” posted Bennett to his Facebook page after the competition. “I couldn’t be happier to share the podium with my friend and teammate Alex Ferreira who stomped the three best runs of his life. So proud of you, man.”
South Tahoe’s Jamie Anderson was also in action on Thursday, competing in the women’s inaugural snowboard big air event. Anderson had already defended her 2014 gold medal in women’s slopestyle, winning the event on Feb. 12, and then added to her medal haul with a second-place finish in big air.
Riding at the Alpensia Jumping Park, Anderson threw down a frontside 1080 on her first run, and then a cab double cork 900 on her second to grab the lead going into the final run. Anderson held the lead until the last run of the day when Austria’s Anna Gasser landed a switch double cork 1080 to edge Anderson’s score of 177.25 with a first-place score of 185.00.
Tahoe Donner sponsored athlete and Sugar Bowl Ski Team member, Mark Engel, 26, saw his first Olympic action on Thursday, competing in men’s slalom. Engel finished his first run with a time of 56.18 seconds and his second with a time of 53.13 to finish in 31st place. Sweden’s Andre Myhrer won the race with a total time of 1:38.99.
Another local athlete, Stacey Cook, was hoping to compete in her fourth Olympics, but a brutal crash suffered on the World Cup tour leading up to the games derailed those plans.
“While I was extremely lucky to walk away from crashing hard just days before the Olympics started, walking actually hasn’t been all that easy. I have high ankle sprains in both legs, an ever-evolving compartment syndrome issue in both legs, a sometimes debilitating nerve pain in my right leg, and the swelling, bruising, and tissue damage that accompanies all of that,” Cook posted to her Facebook page on Feb. 19.
“The docs, physios, and I have tried everything possible to manage the pain enough to ski. I got in the start gate of the training run yesterday and tried to push past the pain, tried to ignore the instincts to quit, tried to be super-human when I know all to well that that I am rather ordinary. I tried. I’m proud of trying and proud of fighting while simultaneously being crushed.”
Earlier in the week, reigning Olympic halfpipe gold medalist in freestyle skiing, Maddie Bowman, of South Tahoe, had a rough go in the final round of halfpipe on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
Bowman crashed in each of her three runs for a last-place finish in the final round of the competition.
“I didn’t want to put down a safety run, so I went for it,” Bowman said. “I sat back twice and then I frickin’ sent her and over-rotated a little bit.”
While Bowman struggled in the finals, Brita Sigourney, who is from Carmel, Calif., and grew up skiing Alpine Meadows, threw it down in a big way to claim a bronze medal.
“I’m so excited for Brita,” Bowman said. “She’s worked so hard for this and has wanted it so bad. I’ve watched her through the ups and downs and it’s just awesome to watch her walk away with a medal.”
Sigourney finished with a score of 91.60. Cassie Sharpe, of Canada, won gold with a score of 95.80. Marie Martinod, of France, was second with a score of 92.60.
Reno’s Tim Jitloff made his debut at the 2018 Winter Olympics on Feb. 18, but the 33-year-old’s giant slalom race ended in a crash.
A pair of cross-country skiers from Truckee are representing other countries at the games as well. Russell Kennedy, 26, is racing for Canada, and helped the country’s men’s 4 x 10 kilometer relay ream finish in ninth on Feb. 18. Kennedy also raced to a 54th place in the men’s sprint classic.
On the women’s side, Truckee’s Anikka Taylor, 24, has been representing Great Britain at the games. She took a 60th place in skiathlon on Feb. 10, and then raced to a 75th place in the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle.