Wednesday saw the first competition day at the O’Neill Pro Freestyle 2007, an established TTR 5 Star contest on the Ticket To Ride (TTR) World Snowboard Tour. With the men’s and women’s Quarterpipe qualification heats all unfolding during the course of the day, it was time for the non-seeded riders to step up their game in an effort to make the cut for Friday’s semi-finals. And that’s exactly what they did.
Split into two evening heats of 60 minutes each, the 47 men threw everything but the kitchen sink at the huge transition, hoping it would be enough to make it into the top 16. With an intimidating flood-lit in-run to point their boards down, the riders kept the crowds on their toes with insane amplitude as well as the occasional slam.
The first men’s heat of the night saw France’s Brynild Vulin setting the pace from an early point with lofted backside airs a good 5.5 meters out. Local hero Stephane Lochon, meanwhile, broke the BS air frenzy with a super-styled out backside 360. The stand-out rider of the heat was undoubtedly 20-year-old Norwegian Mats Hofgaard, who threw two oversized chuck flips more than 5 meters out to earn himself an impressive 248 points and 2nd place in the overall standings. Reflecting on his performance, the young Norwegian said: “The Quarterpipe is riding really nice, and I know I can go a lot bigger in the semis on Friday, so that’s exactly what I’m gonna do!"
The 2nd men’s heat moved things up another gear from the get-go. Highlights included Sweden’s Mikael Sandy’s smooth-as-butter backside 720’s and O’Neill team rider Julien Bogoli’s huge tweaked frontside air, moving him into 4th overall. With only his final run to go, Norway’s Fredrik Evensen charged at the Quarterpipe and threw a tweaked out backside 720 Japan, stamping his authority on the heat and earning himself an unassailable 263 points in the process. Stoked to make it through in 1st place overall, the 21-year-old O’Neill team rider added: “This is my first real Quarterpipe contest, so I’m really pumped to come out on top. I knew I would have to stomp something good to make the cut, and luckily that’s what happened."
Taking place early on Wednesday morning, the women’s qualification heat saw an impressive display of riding that underlines the depth of the talent pool among the girls. Austria’s Conny Bleicher was in the zone throughout the heat, throwing down clean backside airs to claim 3rd spot. Italy’s Rita Comi was also on point with impressive amplitude, scoring 271 points to qualify in 2nd. Determined to qualify in 1st place, 21-year-old Finn Meri Peltonen raised the bar even higher by stomping a clean McTwist and pocketing 280 points. The only blemish on what was an otherwise progressive qualification heat was the injury sustained by Mariapia Ghedina – we all wish her a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing her on the mountain soon.
With Quarterpipe qualification now done and dusted, it’s time to look forward to the semis and finals. Come Friday, the top 16 male riders and top 8 women from last night's heats will have the perfect opportunity to make a name for themselves on the international scene, competing against the likes of Gian Simmen, Fredrik Austbo, Cheryl Maas and Lisa Filzmoser. In the meantime, stay tuned to find out who kills it on the rails during today’s two City Sessions.
For a full run-down of Quarterpipe qualification results: www.oneilleurope.com/profreestyle