Canadian Dara Howell worked through imperfect conditions on the slopestyle course Tuesday to come away with the very first gold medal for ski slopestyle in Olympic history. American Devin Logan earned the silver medal, with Kim Lamarre of Canada right behind her wearing bronze.
Speed was the name of the game in the final—both gaining it and maintaining it. With temperatures at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park approaching the 50-degree-Fahrenheit mark, despite a deceptively overcast sky, conditions were warm for a ski contest, softening up the snow and significantly slowing down the skiers. As the finals advanced, more and more competitors were seen tucking into a ball between jumps, trying as best they could to hang onto the velocity needed to clear the knuckle of the next kicker.
The first set of runs was marked by falls on the part of almost every woman, no doubt owing to on-the-fly adaptation to the snow conditions, including a growing crater at the bottom of the cannon feature. Predictably, the top three women headed into the event put down the most solid initial runs, with Howell, dropping last, earning a 94.20 for moves like a disaster to 270 off the top rail, a switch cork 720, and a bow-and-arrow grab on her flat 540. She simply didn't seem to have the problems of her rivals; her tricks were tweaked, grabbed, and in control, and ultimately that routine was untouchable. Her last run was simply a happy victory lap.
Logan's rail game was on point, hitting the 13-foot wall feature switch and throwing a shifty in there for style points. She hit the big side of the jumps when others were opting for the "women's tee" to the left, and linking a right-side 540 to a switch left-side 540 to a left-side 720 secured her a place on the podium.
Lamarre, however, really brought creativity to the table Tuesday; her runs were unique, with no other woman attempting to duplicate her line. Her backflip from the last of the rail section to set herself up for the trio of kickers was safety-grabbed and a crowd-pleaser, and her final trick, a zero spin, was not just incredibly difficult, but markedly different from the 720 party most of the skiers were having off the last jump. (Zero spins are switch straight airs where the skier takes off and lands backward while not throwing any rotations into the mix.)
Disappointingly, injuries removed a couple of medal contenders from the roster before they could compete. Maggie Voisin, the youngest American freeskier in the Games, was hurt in practice last week and bowed out Friday; Norway's 18-year-old phenom, Tiril Sjastad Christiansen, seemed a sure bet for the Sochi podium, but pulled out of the competition on Feb. 5, citing persistent knee issues. Canadian Yuki Tsubota, who'd been a standout skier Tuesday, joined the ranks of the unfortunate while riding in the final; she had a frightening wreck off the last booter in her second run while attempting a 900, coming down hard on the knuckle. Tsubota was immediately attended by the medical staff and was carried off the course in a litter; no further word on her condition was available at press time.
WOMEN'S SKI SLOPESTYLE FINAL RESULTS
1. Dara Howell (CAN)
2. Devin Logan (USA)
3. Kim Lamarre (CAN )
4. Anna Segal (AUS)
5. Emma Dahlström (SWE)
6. Yuki Tsubota (CAN)
7. Katie Summerhayes (GBR )
8. Silvia Bertagna (ITA)
9. Eveline Bhend (SUI)
10. Keri Herman (USA)
11. Julia Krass (USA)
12. Camillia Berra (SUI)
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