Snowboarder captures 7th for USA
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea
At least the Americans have the Phoenix Snow Park halfpipe.
Freestyle skier David Wise successfully defended his gold medal today, breaking through on his final run to give the U.S. its third gold medal in the halfpipe at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Wise wiped out on his first two runs before sneaking past countryman Alex Ferreira on his third with a score of 97.20. Wise landed double corks in all four directions — front left, front right, switch (backward) left and switch right — a goal he set for himself entering these games.
It’s the seventh gold medal for the U.S. at the Pyeongchang Winter Games, five of which have come at Phoenix Snow Park. Chloe Kim and Shaun White won snowboard halfpipe gold last week, and Red Gerard and Jamie Anderson won at snowboard slopestyle.
The U.S. snowboard and freestyle skiing crews have accounted for 10 of the country’s 19 medals in Pyeongchang.
Ferreira took silver with 96.40 points, and 16-year-old Nico Porteous from New Zealand got bronze. Porteous got the Kiwis’ second medal of the day after snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott won bronze in big air to end New Zealand’s 26-year Winter Games drought.
Porteous momentarily pushed past Ferreira for the top spot with his second run, shocking even himself with a score of 94.80. He dropped his jaw and put his hands on his head when he first saw the result.
Porteous didn’t even bother trying to top it in Run 3, cruising through the halfpipe without a trick and waiting at the bottom for the other competitors.
The Americans had eyed a podium sweep in the halfpipe, with Torin Yater-Wallace and Aaron Blunck also among the favorites. Yater-Wallace failed to complete a clean run, including a gnarly crash midway through his third try, and Blunck’s best effort was an 84.80 on his final run.
The U.S. last swept a podium in Sochi, when Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goeppel won the men’s skiing slopestyle. The U.S. also swept the 2002 men’s snowboard halfpipe and the 1956 men’s figure skating.
Anna Gasser edged two-time gold medalist Jamie Anderson in a thrilling final to earn gold in the Olympic debut of women’s Big Air snowboarding.
Gasser, the reigning world champion, stomped the last of her three jumps, a double cork 1080 that saw the Austrian flip twice while spinning three times. Her score of 96 was the highest of the day and gave her a total of 185.00.
Anderson, who captured her second Olympic gold in women’s slopestyle last week, led going into the final round but sat down while trying to land her last jump. Gasser took full advantage. The 26-year-old raised her arms in triumph and embraced Anderson after the score flashed.
Zoi Sadowski Synnott grabbed the bronze to give New Zealand its first Winter Olympic medal in 26 years.
The victory was vindication of sorts for Gasser, who openly questioned the decision to hold the slopestyle competition at windy Phoenix Snow Park on the first weekend of the Pyeongchang Games. Anderson survived the blustery conditions to claim gold.
Officials scrambled to make sure it wouldn’t happen again in Big Air. They bumped the finals up from Friday to Thursday due to concerns over another possible windstorm.
Big Air requires riders to sprint down a 50-meter ramp before vaulting high into the South Korean sky, flipping and twisting their way to the landing ramp, traveling as much as 100 feet while flying end-over-end. All riders get three attempts, with the two highest scores counting toward their total.