With its interesting course and stellar line-up, the Burton US Open slopestyle is - at least in any non-Olympic season - the biggest event of its kind. In the years when the five rings have come around, it’s also a chance for those who won a medal to consolidate their reputation at the top of the sport. Meanwhile for those who left the Games empty-handed, it’s a platform on which to show that, had it been their day, they might have been the ones ending up on the cereal boxes.
That would have certainly been on Mark McMorris’ mind as he dropped in for the final. Two Olympic bronze medals is nothing to be sniffed at, but the Canadian is never happier than when he’s the one on top. After qualifying in first, this event looked like his to lose.
"Few riders handle pressure as well as Mark, and his third run was a belter"
He didn’t make it easy, leaving himself with a mountain to climb on his third run after failing to get a run down on his first two attempts, and picking up an injury to boot. Few riders handle pressure as well as Mark, though, and his third run was a belter; half cab on to boardslide pretzel out, switch backside 270 on, switch boardslide corked 630 out (channeling main rival Marcus Kleveland), switch backside 1260 and back-to-back 1440s.
Chris Corning took the challenge, and stepped up his switch backside 900 from earlier runs into a switch backside 1260. He also had the 14s on the last two jumps, giving him a similar jump routine to Mark, and a more technical rail routine. Sure enough, the judges rewarded him with a slightly higher trick score, but gave Mark the edge after overall impression had been factored in. The difference between the two riders was a mere 0.2 points.
You have to feel bad for Chris - subjective judging will always be up for debate, but it’s hard to see where he lost the crucial points. The only thing we’d single out for penalising would be the zeach at the very start, but it got a higher trick score than what Mark did anyway. Regardless of the result, Chris has definitely proved himself as one of the best slopestyle riders around, and hopefully shaken off some of the disappointment of Pyeongchang.
The rest of the field couldn’t catch Mark either, with previous champ Yuki Kadono and underdogs Nik Baden and Fridjtof Ticschendorf among those failing to put down their third run. In the end it all came down to whether or not Marcus Kleveland could regain the top spot with the final run of the day. Things were looking good, and he even put down the boardslide to corked 810 out that he’d debuted in practice. With a backside triple cork 1440 off the final jump, he’d surely take the win.
Amazingly, on a trick the Norwegian can usually land in his sleep, he failed to hang on to the landing and took a hard slam. After dusting himself off he was happy to take third place, leaving Mark to celebrate being the first male slopestyle rider in the Burton US Open’s 36-year history to retain the title.