Fortunately for themselves as well as for the spectators, the male halfpipe competitors didn’t stay out partying last night (the whole snowboard crowd of Davos between 16 and 30 did though and used the fact that due to the holiday Heilig Drei König they were allowed to sleep in today) and set the pipe on fire today.
Out of 55 shredheads registered for the pipe qualification, 16 made it to the semifinals – the best 4 out of each of the two heats and then the 8 best overall. An interesting format insuring that you wouldn’t loose out on a spot just because you were drawn to be in the heat with fiercer competition.
We don’t know if it was because the pipe was still super hard this morning and grew softer during the day, but the first heat came on a tiny bit slower than the second. Still there was some really impressing stuff going on, likewise by experienced riders and rookies. Dropping in tenth, Japanese Masakaze Yoshida had amplitude going on that seemed to be unreal for a small 15 years old and immediately took over the lead. But only until Per Iver Grimsrud showed the crowd what 27 years of shredding in Norway can do to your skills and landed the winning run consisting of FS 5, BS 5, FS7, Cab 7 and another FS 5 that earned him 86 points.
The kids weren’t done yet though and 15 years Swiss rider Jan Scherrer managed to get the sixth and last spot of this heat with super nice 9s, while Finnish talent Petja Piiroinen’s super smooth style earned him third place in this qualification followed by O’Neill rider Eric Willet (USA), who could move into the TTR top 5 if he makes good use of his chance at the semi final. Last but not least also Kevin Bronckears from the flatlands of Belgium is looking forward to playing with the big boys on Friday.
Before the second heat riders got ready to drop in, the pipe was free for some open training. An opportunity that former Olympic champ Gian Simmen (SUI), who will be competing in the finals as well, didn’t want to miss and quickly changed the speaker mice for his snowboard and strapped in for a couple of test runs.
Under more sunshine that is good for winter pale skin (but more than good for stiff fingers that can hardly hold a pen anymore), the second heat started to really blow up the pipe. With an amazing run consisting of FS 10, Inverted 7 and Alley Oop BS Rodeo, Finnish rider Ilkka-Eemeli Laari went to an almost unbeatable lead after the first run, just to top himself with a BS 5, FS1080, Cab 7 and Double Cork 10 in the second run although he had already secured his spot for the semi finals and got the highest score of the day which was a solid 95 points. Now this is the motivation we’re looking for – promptly commented by the speaker with an enthusiastic “I love Finnish snowboarders! You never know what they’re gonna pull out of the bag next”.
And the Scandis were really rooking it today, bagging the top 3 out of the 10 riders from this heat that were welcomed to the semi finals. Although a bit shaky in the beginning, Fredrik Austbo (NOR) proofed the former super grom has become a solid pipe shredder, throwing down a super stylish FS 10 Nosegrab and Cab 10 that was only trumped by fellow countryman Roger Kleivdal. Although in the lead and then second for quite a while, Britain’s Dan Wakeham had to be satisfied with 4th place in the end, followed by Kosuke Hosokawa (JPN), Maxence Tevelle (FRA), Janne Lipsanen (FIN), Mario Käppeli (SUI), Fabian Fassnacht (SUI), Enzo Nilo (FRA) and Rafael Coray (SUI).
After this inspiring contest day, we’re more than curious for the Slopestyle qualification – and that’s not only because we wonder how the almost 120 contestants will tear up the course consisting of a gas pipe, two massive booters and a little hip and jib set up.
Due to a mysterious up-the-mountain-fondue-thingy tomorrow evening it might take us a while to get the next update ready though….
– Anna Langer