Proud members of Team USA, Nick Goepper, Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Bobby Brown will be competing in Sochi at the 2014 Winter Games. To stay up on the latest on your favorite Dew Tour athletes, keep it locked on NBCOlympics.com.
The Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships at Breckenridge, Colorado started off its final day of competition with a heated battle royal in the Men's Freeski Slopestyle Final. With the announcement that the iON Mountain Championships would be a USSA-selection event, the level of competition today was at an all-time high for the freeskiers—a discipline historically disenfranchised by the Olympics.
The energy was palpable on the mountain as the 16 athletes laid it all on the line in two course runs, counting only their highest score toward the win.
Kicking off the final, we saw four riders in succession take to the course but come up short and unable to finish a complete run. The word from the athletes was “wind.” It wasn’t until McRae Williams made his drop that we saw a run in completion, which reminded the crowd that Williams was here to win and that the course was, in fact, very trickable.
Tom Wallisch reinforced that sentiment when he took to the course. While only qualifying in the 9th spot, everyone expected a massive performance from Wallisch today at the final. Wallisch’s first run included a frontside switch-up pretzel 270 out on the first rail feature, a switch left double cork 1080 Japan into a switch right double cork 1080 Japan on the first jump, a pretzel spinning one way onto the rainbow rail and the opposite way off as well as a stomped switch 900 on one of the bottom jumps. Wallisch would earn a score of 89.20 at the end of his first run.
“I feel good, just happy to land a run,” said Wallisch at the bottom of the course. Wallisch went on to speak about his goals this season and how he plans to pace himself in order to earn a spot to represent his country in Sochi. “As the season goes on I’ll be trying to work in some more difficult runs. Just taking it a little easier here in the beginning to dial in a good place and results early in these events to hopefully secure a spot to Sochi. It’s going to be a crazy year, a long year with a lot of events. I’m just trying to work into it.”
Wallisch’s first run score would reign supreme to all but that of the first place qualifier, Nick Goepper. Goepper’s first run would include big tricks, including a 270 on pretzel 270 out on the first down rail into a lipslide onto the wallride to 450 out feature before hucking a switch left double cork 1080 Japan and a switch rightside double cork 900 double Japan grab, then he went 180 on and switch 540 out of the chicken coop into a k-fed onto the rainbow and finally ending with right double cork 1080 mute to double Japan and a left double cork 1260 tailgrab.
Following Goepper’s first run he received a 93.00 and a safe buffer from his competition. When asked what it will take to ride out with the win Goepper replied, “It's going to take speed, because it is a little windy off the jumps,” speaking to a headwind blowing into the face of the athletes as they take off of the bottom two jumps.
The athletes seemed to have found their groove during the second round, as almost every rider made a run in completion to the bottom.
Local boy Bobby Brown nailed his run in the first round but came in hot in round two to up the ante. However with heavy hitters such as foreign threat Alex Beaulieau-Marchand and Russ Henshaw, last year’s Dew Tour slopestyle champion, still to drop Brown was anything but safe.
Beaulieau-Marchand came in to his second run with a switch right 270 onto the first rail before spinning a switch 450 then spinning 270 out on the second rail, then a switch right double cork 1080 safety grab to a right 900 truckdriver that lead him to a nose butter cork 720 safety off the chicken coop to a right 270 up to a right 270 off the next rail before wrapping with a double cork 720 and double cork 1260 on the bottom two jumps. That run earned him a staggering 91.20 and the second place spot with only a few riders left.
“I’m super stoked because I did the run I wanted to do,” said Beaulieau-Marchand. “The conditions weren’t too good this morning but for this second run the conditions all came together for the best.”
Next in line to shake up the standings was Henshaw who said he was, “really nervous because with my first run I was having trouble with the wind but I managed to pull it together.” Henshaw pulled everything from his 450 on to 270 out on the tear drop rail up top to his switch double cork 900 and right double cork 1260 on the final two hits. Henshaw impressed the judges and received a 90 flat that would ensure him the third place spot overall.”
“It’s nuts,” said Henshaw with regard to the stiff competition he was up against, specifically the U.S. riders “There are so many good riders from the U.S.”
In the end, it was “hearthrob” Goepper getting the privilege of dropping for a victory lap following Henshaw’s final run that earned him the third place spot behind Beaulieau-Marchand.
“I’m pretty hyped,” said Goepper following his victory lap and 100 USSA points awarded for taking all. “I’m not focussed on Sochi yet, I’m focussed on the next event.” Goepper assured us we can expect something similar from him at the next event and, “maybe a new trick, but for the most part just some smooth riding with some style in it.”
Congrats go out to Goepper for not only taking the win at this year’s event, but doing so without ski poles and a braced hand. Expect this 19-year-old freeski authority to go all the way to Sochi.
With the first of five U.S. Olympic selection events now behind the athletes, the race for USSA points has a clear leader and a remaining list of Americans to keep an eye out for as the battle for a spot to represent their country continues.
1st Place – Nick Goepper
2nd Place – Alex Beaulieau-Marchand
3rd Place – Russ Henshaw
4th Place – Bobby Brown
5th Place – Tom Wallisch
6th Place – James Woods
7th Place – Alex Schlopy
8th Place – Joss Christensen
9th Place – Mcrae Williams
10th Place – Noah Wallace
11th Place – Sammy Carlson
12th Place – Oystein Braten
13th Place – Robert Franco
14th Place – Gus Kenworthy
15th Place – Antti Ollila
16th Place – Kolby Ward