Spencer O’Brien Mixes Difficulty, Smooth Execution to Win Snowboard Slopestyle Olympic Qualifier

With the 2018 Winter Olympic Games on the horizon, the women pushed their tricks to new heights at Dew Tour Breckenridge.

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New tricks and technical difficulty took priority at the women's snowboard slopestyle final at Dew Tour Breckenridge's Olympic qualifier on Saturday, December 16, but in the end it was cleanliness that took home the win. The final brought back the top eight riders from Wednesday's qualifier, and each woman was given three runs to put down their best tricks. Only the best score for each competitor was used to determine the overall rank for the event.

As the final event kicked off the day of competition, the conditions on the course were quite similar to those ridden during the qualifier: flat light. Simply put, when the light becomes flat, the definition of the snow is hard to see, and as you can imagine, which makes it more than tricky to put down the most difficult tricks.

Still, this didn't seem to slow down the world's best as they powered through the fast course with their eyes peeled. Spencer O'Brien described it best, "it's like riding by brail."

Proving this was not a deal breaker for putting together an impressive run, third place qualifier, Hailey Langland laid down a score of 90 on her first go. Then, the 10-time Dew Tour champion, Jamie Anderson followed up with a score of 93.33. This would hold up for Anderson as her best run of the day with smooth tricks from top to bottom. Anderson's run included an impressive gap backside lipslide, boardslide 270 out of waterfall rail, backside 540 grabbing indy, cab 540 grabbing mute, 50-50 backside 180 out off Toyota feature, switch backside 180 grabbing indy and a perfect frontside 720 grabbing mute to close.

For Anderson's remaining runs she worked toward putting down a new trick for her, a cab double cork 900. Anderson explained after the event where the outside motivation came from.

"Fricken Olympics," laughed Anderson after the event. "Everyone is hungry to do their best and [the Olympic] stage is such a big one to progress, where as these other events that happen every year you can redeem yourself. With the Olympics you may, if your lucky, only get to go to a couple in your whole career. So I think that is what inspires people to work harder"

That theme of pushing themselves was seen from all of the competitors in the final.

During the second runs, O'Brien presented a mixed bag of difficult tricks on the rails and off the jumps, and was ultimately rewarded a 95 to overtake Anderson. O'Brien's second, and best, run included the same gap backside lipslide to start, a 50-50 to noseslide pretzel (spinning against her body's momentum) 270 out, switch backside 360 grabbing mute, switch frontside 540 grabbing tail, 50-50 frontside 360 out, frontside 720 off the toes (adding another layer of extreme difficulty, not overlooked by the judges) grabbing indy and a backside 720 grabbing mute to finish.

"I'm impressed by the show put on by the ladies today," stated O'Brien as she contributed her push for progression as a reflection of the space. "The sport has changed so much in the last few years with the introduction of airbags. You see people training all summer on dry slope into air bags and also training in the fall... The way people train is really shifting and it has become much more a year round thing. I think that really showed in the level [of riding] today."

O'Brien's second run score held on to be the highest of the day, while Anderson's first run remained as the second highest. Anderson's result as the top American solidified her position on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team. Rounding out the podium was Finland's "silent assassin," Enni Rukajarvi, respectively.

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle Final Results

1.) Spencer O’Brien (CAN), 95.00
2.) Jamie Anderson (USA), 93.33
3.) Enni Rukajarvi (FIN), 92.00
4.) Hailey Langland (USA), 90.00
5.) Silje Norendal (NOR), 87.66
6.) Julia Marino (USA), 85.33
7.) Sina Candrian (CHE), 60.66
8.) Laurie Blouin (CAN), 28.00