Americans sweep podium in men's ski slopestyle
Joss Christensen takes gold in inaugural Olympic event
Joss Christensen would have felt some serious pressure as he stepped into the starting gate for his final run – if he hadn’t already been crowned Olympic champion.
The 22-year-old American, skiing last in a field of 12, posted a winning score of 95.80 in his first run of the final, meaning that he could take in the scenery during his second run and savour the feeling of being the first ever gold medal winner in the inaugural Olympic men’s ski slopestyle event.
Christensen’s teammates, Gus Kenworthy and Nicholas Goepper, finished second and third to give the Americans a clean sweep of the podium.
Kenworthy, also 22, came the closest to catching Christensen with a score of 93.60. Goepper, the youngest at 19, wasn’t far behind, putting up a 92.40.
Learning experience for Canadian Olympic rookie
The lone Canadian in the field, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand of Cap-Rouge, Que., finished last out of the 12 finalists.
It was an up-and-down day for the boom-or-bust style skier, who was making his Olympic debut at age 19.
After an error-filled opening run in qualifying that saddled him with a score of only 20.00, Beaulieu-Marchand needed to rebound strongly in his second chance, and he didn’t disappoint, pulling off a dazzling array of mid-air manoeuvres and landed each of his jumps cleanly to earn a score of 85.60, good enough for sixth place and entry into the final.
Unfortunately, history repeated itself during Beaulieu-Marchand’s first run of the final, as he had trouble with routine tricks up top, and things went downhill from there, leaving him with a disastrous score of 5.00.
With one final shot at redemption, Beaulieu-Marchand started his last run well, but he couldn’t stick a landing off one of the large jumps at the bottom, settling for a score of 21.40 and a 12th place finish.
The men’s ski slopestyle event was only the second time that Canada has been shut out of the medals in a freestyle event in Sochi, having won 7 combined medals in earlier events.
Spills and thrills
Pre-race jitters are part and parcel of any Olympic competition, but they seemed to play a larger role than usual during the qualifying round, as many of the top contenders made uncharacteristic mistakes on their way down the course.
However, given a second chance due to the format, which takes the high score and throws out the low score, the big names were able to atone for their mistakes and put up better scores in run two that booked their tickets to the medal round.