Joss Christensen goes from worst to first
Through two runs of the three-run men’s slopestyle skiing final at Friday’s U.S. Grand Prix at Park City Mountain Resort, Joss Christensen found himself sitting in ninth place, with only one skier behind him — a Canadian who wasn’t able to compete in the finals.
But, because he placed first overall in Thursday’s qualifiers, Christensen had the luxury of having the final run of the competition. He knew exactly what he needed to score to beat McRae Williams, a fellow Park City All-Star who sat atop the podium with a score of 90.00.
Christensen said he was feeling the pressure to perform on the final run in front of a large group of hometown fans who were cheering for him.
"It’s pretty awesome to have a three-run final," he said. "Usually, you want to get that first run out of the way and then build off it, but today, I fell on my first two, which doesn’t happen to me too often. I was really nervous going into the third one — I really wanted to land one. I just wanted to do well."
Most of the slopestyle competitors, especially the Americans, belong to a close-knit group of friends. So, when they’re all up at the starting gates together, it creates a loose, fun atmosphere. Christensen said that was something he was missing while sitting up top alone waiting for his final run.
"Being up there alone, I was just thinking to myself I wanted to do the best I could," he said. "I wanted to try and prove myself. I just went for it and I’m glad I went for it, because it worked out. It’s hard dropping last and knowing there’s no one behind you. It’s up to you to either do well or not."
Once he had successfully landed his final trick — a switch right double-cork 1080 safety — Christensen raised his arms in celebration. He said he was stoked to have finally put down a clean run and knew he had a potential podium finish in the bag.
"I don’t really like to claim [a run] and throw my arms up in the air, but it was so cool to see all my friends and family and know they were cheering me on," he said. "It was awesome."
When the final scores came in, Christensen had indeed snagged a podium spot — first place. His 92.00 bumped Williams to second and fellow American Gus Kenworthy to third — an American podium sweep.
"Taking a win here means so much to me," Christensen said. "I’m really stoked. McRae killed it — he threw down such a good run and I thought he was actually going to win, even after my run. I was just shooting to be a little bit below him. He skis so well all the time."
"I knew [Joss] had the ability to take it and he’s good under pressure, so I was pretty sure he would do it," Williams added. "But we’ve been friends since we were eight years old, so I’m stoked to see him come out on top."
Williams had plenty to be happy about, too — his final run was one of the best he’s laid down this season. He said being able to compete well in his hometown was an incredible feeling.
"It means the world," he said. "It’s been a rough year for me so far — I’ve had trouble getting results. So for it to happen here, in front of the hometown crowd, I’m stoked."
As far as where the Park City Grand Prix silver ranks among his career highlights, Williams said it’s definitely near the top.
"I won the X Games [in 2013 in Tignes, France], but this would probably be a close second," he said.
Last year, Parkite Alex Scholpy won the first slopestyle skiing competition of the Grand Prix and Christensen finished first in the second. To be able to come back and defend his title and see fellow Parkite Williams take second place was an incredible feeling, Christensen said. Now, he added, it’ll be up to the Park City crew, which also includes Tom Wallisch (who finished fifth) and Chris Laker (sixth), to defend the title in coming years.
"We barely have time where other athletes come here," he said. "So we just want to kind of show everyone this is our turf, in a good way. It’s really cool to all do well together."
Devin Logan second in women’s comp
Just before Christensen and Williams took the top two spots in an American podium sweep for the men, Devin Logan, who has lived in Park City for the last four years, finished second in the women’s slopestyle skiing competition.
Like Christensen, Logan’s first two runs weren’t enough to have her in a podium spot going into her final run. The pressure was on, but Logan stayed loose, dancing along to her music in the starting gates before dropping in.
"I was listening to DMX," she said. "It always gets me pumped."
After stomping the landing on her final jump, Logan’s score came in at 77.60, just two points behind winner Emma Dahlstrom of Sweden.
"I knew I had to stomp my third run, and I did that," Logan said. "I’m really happy with it."
Heading into Saturday’s halfpipe competition, in which Logan is also competing, with a medal already in the bag will make things less stressful.
"It definitely takes the pressure off," she said. "Getting one podium makes me happy going into tomorrow. It can only get better from here."
The U.S. Grand Prix at Park City Mountain Resort continues Saturday with the men’s and women’s halfpipe skiing competition. Sunday will feature the men’s and women’s snowboard finals. Both events start at noon.
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