Snowboarder Laurie Blouin fights off injury, controversial course to win slopestyle silver
Canadian lands on podium despite uncertain status for final
By Paul McGaughey, CBC Sports
Canadian Laurie Blouin won a silver medal in the women's snowboard slopestyle final in extremely windy conditions on Monday in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
American Jamie Anderson made it back-to-back titles with her best score of 83 in the two-run final, followed by Blouin at 76.33 and Finland's Enni Rukajarvi at 75.38.
Click on the video below to watch Jamie Anderson take back-to-back gold:
Blouin was able to adjust to conditions that bedeviled other competitors, going from the eighth-best first run with a score of 49.16 to the podium on her second try. The determined snowboarder and first-time Olympian put down a backside 720, a frontside 540, and then stomped the landing with a cab underflip to earn the top score of the second run.
Blouin, of Stoneham, Que., landed on the podium despite her uncertain status for the final.
"Now I'm here in second place, I just don't believe it," said Blouin. "It's a dream come true."
Click on the video below to watch Laurie Blouin celebrate silver medal:
The 21-year-old took a hard fall during Friday's training run and was transported to hospital as a precaution, but the reigning world champion soon returned to the Athletes' Village and proclaimed on Instagram that she had been cleared by doctors to compete.
Brooke Voigt of Fort McMurray, Alta., and Spencer O'Brien of Courtenay, B.C., also competed for Canada and finished 21st and 22nd, respectively.
Wind was a major concern and had riders trying to minimize the impact of the course conditions, according to CBC Sports commentator Craig McMorris.
He later added that he couldn't imagine anyone jumping on the course if it wasn't a contest situation.
Jacqueline Doorey of CBC Sports spoke to sources who said the race should not have gone forward under those conditions.
Talked to a couple people who’ve said organizers should have postponed the women’s snowboard slopestyle... said the winds made the course very unsafe.
Consensus seems to be it wasn’t a fair final for the riders. #PyeongChang2018 #Olympics
Competitors up against the wind
O'Brien, who spoke to CBC Sports, was also critical of event organizers as crosswinds reportedly hit 48 km/h.
"We were really up against it today with the wind. It was kind of like the lottery if you got lucky and didn't get any wind, you really had a shot at putting down a run," said O'Brien.
"But I didn't really get that lucky. I got a downhill tailwind in my first run, I just couldn't even physically hit the next jump on the second. I was pretty unlucky today. I'm just pretty disappointed in the organizers to make us ride in these conditions."
Click on the video below for coverage of the slopestyle course controversy:
O'Brien also said competitors should be given a voice in the decision.
"When our safety is involved, the riders need to have a say. We do a really dangerous board and this is really now a showcase of what these women can do. Everyone is so exceptional in this field. I really wish we could have showcased that today."
When organizers decided to proceed, crashes and aborted runs soon followed. Only a handful of riders completed their full runs and most had to dial things back.
FIS acknowledges 'challenging' weather conditions
The International Ski Federation (FIS) later provided CBC Sports with an official statement and acknowledged the challenges posed to the athletes, but determined the weather conditions to be safe enough to proceed with the race.
"The first priority for FIS is the safety of the athletes and FIS would never stage a competition if this could not be assured," the statement read.
Following a 30-minute delay the jury gave the go-ahead for a training run and felt conditions were stable.
Click on the video below to watch Blouin on overcoming injury, wind:
"After staging the 45-minute training session without problems and monitoring the weather forecast for the following hours, the jury determined that the weather was stable enough to proceed with the competition."
However, the statement adds the caveat that outdoor sports often require athletes to adapt.
"FIS always aims for the athletes to be able to stage their best performances, which some athletes have expressed was not the case today, but the nature of outdoor sports also requires adapting to the elements."
Voigt described some of the jumps as "terrifying."
"When it's gusty like this, sometimes it can just hit you in mid-air and you can feel it," she said. "Picture holding an umbrella in the wind and that's your snowboard."
Despite several queries, team officials would not reveal specifics on Blouin's injury heading into the big day.
However, Blouin's teammate, Mark McMorris, said Saturday that she suffered a head injury.
"She whacked her noggin pretty good and cut up her face," said McMorris, a bronze medallist in men's slopestyle.
Click on the video below to watch The Journey, featuring Spencer O'Brien:
Blouin had remained on the start list for Sunday's qualification round, which would eventually be cancelled due to inclement weather, but the Canadian Olympic Committee later released a statement that cleared Blouin to resume full training, though it did not go as far as to say she was cleared to compete.
"Snowboarder Laurie Blouin was able to resume full training [Saturday]," Canadian Olympic Committee corporate communications manager Ricky Landry said in an email.
"She will continue to be monitored by Team Canada's medical staff and her team doctor. We'll share updates as information becomes available."
Officials had remained mum on Blouin's status for the final, only saying that "things were status quo."
Blouin's instagram post was later taken down.
With files from The Canadian Press