Tough flat light and hard snow persisted into the afternoon for the women's snowboard slopestyle finals Sunday in Sochi, Russia, but American Jamie Anderson emerged victorious over the elements to take home the discipline's first-ever Olympic gold medal for the ladies.
In one of the last runs of the event, Anderson laid down a super-clean series of smooth rail tricks into a 720 sandwich off the jumps, beginning with a Cab 720 and ending with a frontside 720. It was clear from the second she stomped her last trick that it was going to be enough to bump her into first position above Enni Rukajarvi (FIN), who had previously taken over the lead.
Sage Kotsenburg, who won the first-ever Sochi gold (and snowboard slopestyle gold) Saturday night, tweeted this after he saw Anderson's line:
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-partner=”tweetdeck”><p>Just jumped out of my chair when <a href=”https://twitter.com/Jme_Anderson”>@Jme_Anderson</a> landed that run!! <a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Spoice&src=hash”>#Spoice</a></p>— sage kotsenburg (@sagekotsenburg) <a href=”https://twitter.com/sagekotsenburg/statuses/432458895148462080″>February 9, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Unsurprisingly, Anderson is the winningest woman in slopestyle, and she's been a favorite for gold since the discipline was announced as an Olympic event for Sochi. Her teammate, Karly Shorr, made it through to the final round, but wound up sitting dead middle of the pack.
The aforementioned difficult conditions dictated the riding patterns for the women, and it seemed they tried to strike a balance between playing it safe to ensure consistently landed tricks in their first runs, then stepping it up to make an impression on the judges in round two. Australian three-discipline competitor Torah Bright, however, raised the bar right off the bat, attempting the first Cab 900 of the final with conviction, but ultimately bobbling the landing on both her first and second runs. It was a marked progression from the frontside and backside 720s these top contenders have made standard in their runs, and it set the stage for the most exciting moment of the night outside of the final rankings: Swiss pro Sina Candrian's frontside 1080—the first ever even attempted by a woman in competition.
To be fair, the landing wasn't totally clean—she dragged a hand, and the judges deemed it enough to push her temporarily into second place—but the gauntlet has officially been thrown down. Candrian finished in fourth.
Great Britain's Jenny Jones—at 33, the oldest woman in the contest—rounded out the podium with bronze, her country's first medal in the 2014 Winter Games. Her strategy didn't change at all from semis, and she simply continued to clean up the same combination of tricks over all four attempts Sunday.
Sarka Pancochova (CZE), who finished best in the semis before this event, had a scary crash attempting a frontside 540 off the first jump in her second run. Cameras briefly showed her helmet, which had been cracked in half on the back from where she'd landed on her head. Sharky, as she's affectionately known, rode down the course under her own power to receive her score and momentarily retained what had been bronze-medal position before finishing fifth. No official word has yet been released on her condition.
Olympic snowboarding continues with men's halfpipe qualifiers on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. Sochi time. Find out where to watch on nbcolympics.com.
WOMEN'S SNOWBOARD SLOPESTYLE FINAL RESULTS
1. Jamie Anderson (USA)
2. Enni Rukajarvi (FIN)
3. Jenny Jones (GBR)
4. Sina Candrian (SUI)
5. Sarka Pancochova (CZE)
6. Karly Shorr (USA)
7. Torah Bright (AUS)
8. Isabel Derungs (SUI)
9. Elena Koenz (SUI)
10. Anna Gasser (AUT)
11. Silje Norendal (NOR)
12. Spencer O'Brien (CAN)
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