It was a case of 'the kids are alright' today here in Laax as 16-year-old Arielle Gold and 14-year-old Ayumu Hirano bossed the super ditch to take the BEO halfpipe crowns...
After the disappointment of yesterday's slopestyle finals having to be canned due to crappy conditions, today Mother Nature cracked a grin and - though conditions weren't tip top - stopped blowing a gale and lifted her cloudy skirt to allow the pipe finals to go down as planned.
The women were first to drop and, despite some snowfall and foggy conditions, put on a decent showing with a bit of a shock result to boot. Back-to-back 720s from the likes of Elena Hight and Serena Shaw were impressive, as was Elena Hight's style, Ellery Hollingsworth's Michaelchuck flips and – naturally – Kelly Clark's monster amplitude. However, turning heads was 16-year-old American Arielle Gold, who took the early lead with a heady cocktail of style, huge hits and tech combos. She even turned it up a notch for her final run, improving on her earlier score to tighten her grip on first place, her proper poked backside airs to steezy front 5s up top standing out.
Kelly Clark was sat in second after 2 runs, the high scoring one being solid but with Gold in pole we were expecting her to use her experience to unleash in the last. The pressure, which she can't have felt too often here (usually she tends to have a victory lap) was most certainly on bu unfortunately for Kelly, she slammed on the first hit leaving Gold to take the top spot. "This is a huge win for me," said a clearly delighted Arielle. “I am pretty stoked. It's my first 6Star title, that's crazy!"
After a quick reshape it was time for the men to take centre stage and as if on cue the clouds lifted and the sun beamed down setting the scene for a memorable showdown. Huge airtime, insane spins and a peppering of double corks were the order of the day from the get-go, with some dudes who'd battled through the early rounds making a good impression - namely Swiss teenagers David Hablützel and Lucien Koch. But the invited dudes were, predictably, making their experience count too. Scotty Lago had the crowd hooting for his unique approach to pipe riding, often triple-poking his spins or double nosegrabbing his frontside 900s that saw him settle into second place after the second run, but he was bumped down a spot when Iouri Podladtchikov finally managed to put the run he wanted down.
But this final was all about 14-year-old Japanese sensation Ayumu Hirano who'd recently announced himself taking silver at the X Games. Though he technically should ride in the Junior category he was going bigger than any of the other riders, and with style for days. His second run consisted of an enormous backside air, frontside 1080 tail grab, Cab 1080 nose grab and a frontside double cork 1080 that earned him an unassailable 87.60 points and his first BEO pipe title. "The conditions were really difficult," he said after the Champagne shower, “but I am very happy that I could show my best riding. I am super stoked"
As they say, "Booom!" Junior Jam tomorrow. More then then.