U.S. skier Aaron Blunck pulls out all the stops for repeat halfpipe gold
February 9, 2019
Aaron Blunck had to do something special to stand out.
As one of four American halfpipe skiers among 10 competitors in contention for the FIS World Championship on Saturday, there were plenty of ways to fall short of earning the top spot on the podium.
His first run was solid, putting him into third. But to defend the World Championship gold he earned in 2017, he had to pull out all the stops in his final run.
He dropped into Eagle Superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort, flowing through the top section much as he had in his opening run, going from a switch left double cork 900 into a switch right double cork 1080, then a left double cork 900 down the pipe. Then he added his trump card, the right double cork 1440 he had first performed at the Copper Mountain Grand Prix in December, and flowed it into a switch alley oop flat 540 to finish his run.
The judges gave it a 94.2, and Blunck threw his hands up in excitement.
But he couldn't truly celebrate yet.
He was still waiting for several athletes to finish, including Simon D'Artois of France and Blunck’s teammate, David Wise, a perennial medalist with a laundry list of difficult tricks in his repertoire.
"David Wise is a very, very competitive person, so you know he's always gunning for the top spot," said Blunck, who hails from Crested Butte, Colorado.
That competitive streak had earned Wise, a native of Reno, Nevada, four X Games golds and two Olympic golds, all in halfpipe.
"Sitting down at the bottom, it's hope for the best, expect the worst," Blunck said.
Fortunately for Blunck, his fear was unwarranted.
Wise's run was solid, earning an 86, but not enough to threaten the podium.
With Blunck's final decisive run down the superpipe, he became the first skier to defend a halfpipe world championship title. And he recognized how fragile that title was.
"Whether it's these guys or anyone else out there, anybody could win at any given time, it really just matters about the day, what's going on in people’s heads,” Blunck said. “So to come out here and win in front of … home soil, I’m very stoked."
He had earned the win, but it took all he had.
Men's freestyle halfpipe finals
1. Aaron Blunck, USA- 94.20
2. Kevin Rolland, France – 93.80
3. Noah Bowman, Canada – 91.60
4. Simon D Artois, Canada – 91.40
5. Birk Ruud, Norway – 88.20
6. Thomas Krief, France – 87.00
7. David Wise, USA – 86.60
8. Alex Ferriera, USA – 84.20
9. Nico Porteous, New Zealand – 83.60
10. Taylor Seaton, USA – 82.80
A stacked team
Among Blunck’s teammates, Wise and Alex Ferreira, of Aspen, Colorado, had been cleaning up for most of the season, with Ferreira emerging from Wise's shadow with a repeat Dew Tour win and his first X Games gold.
However, Ferreira, of Aspen, Colorado, finished eighth, just behind Wise, with a score of 84.20.
Neither of them let their disappointment show after the competition.
"I'm walking away happy and healthy, and that's all you can ask for," Ferreira said. "I've had a really great year. I'm really happy to be healthy and happy that I've been on top of the podium a few times."
Ferreira said being a part of such a competitive U.S. squad is beneficial, even when he isn’t the one standing on the podium.
"It pushes us to go further, bigger, better and faster," he said. "It's really awesome to be part of one of the best teams, because you can really showcase your stuff, and you have people pushing you constantly."
Wise concurred, saying the day's skiing was "through the roof."
"Any other day, if I had landed the caliber of runs that I had landed, I would have been on the podium today," he said. "I felt like I got heavily deducted for some of my small, small mistakes. But sometimes you get points and sometimes you don’t. I’m still walking away today happy with how skiing as a whole performed and how I performed."
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