Burton Snowboards invited sixty of the world’s best snowboarders to its second annual Burton High Fives six-day event held at the picturesque Cardrona Alpine Resort in New Zealand last week.
Among the 16-member American contingent, several American halfpipe and slopestyle boarders brought home medals in all four contests, proving their readiness for the 2014 Sochi Olympics qualifying season. Top finishers reeled in prize money awards of $10,000, $5,000, and $2500 for their podium performances.
Jamie Anderson, who hopes to compete in the inaugural slopestyle event in Sochi this February, proved her frontrunner status by winning this contest on Thursday. The challenging and fun course was highlighted by two flat rails, a rainbow feature, and then three progressively more challenging jumps. In a best of three-run format, Anderson ripped her winning run (85.20) on the rails with a backside tailslide, and two 50/50s, before launching off of three kickers with a backside 180 mute, Cab 540 melon, and backside 540 indy. “My run was pretty good, but a bit sketchy,” said Anderson in a Transworld Snowboarding interview. “But I was glad to land my second, especially in these (windy) conditions.” Finland’s Enni Rukajärvi (79.20) and Norway’s Silje Norendal (69.20) nabbed the second and third place podium spots.
Braving the same wintry weather, the men threw down gnarly slopestyle runs, each trying to out-best the other. Norway’s Ståle Sandbech pushed the limits of sanity by stomping a mighty second run (94.60) with a halfcab 50-50 180 out, hardway 270 on boardslide, and boardslide 270 out on the rails, and a frontside 900 double cork indy, Cab 1260 stale, and backside 1080 double cork stale off the jumps. American Kyle Mack, just 16 years old, banged out a 92.40 rad romp to claim the runner-up spot, with Japan’s Yuki Kadono settling for third (91.20). The young gun Mack is the money, having landed the first triple cork ever in competition.
The halfpipers descended into Cardrona on Friday. USA was in the house, solidifying its domination in the pipe once more. The women swept their event as two veteran Olympians sandwiched a rising wild child on the podium. Kelly Clark, a two-time Olympics medalist, seized the day with yet another victory amidst her incredible three-decade career. She banged a dope frontside air, backside 540, frontside 1080, Cab 720, and a frontside inverted 720 to seal the deal with a 89.60 score.
Chloe Kim, a mere 13 years young, slayed the pipe with a 85.50 run. She has quickly busted out from the junior level and is now stepping it up within the elite realm. Her phenomenal second place run far outshines her impressive 12th place finish at last year’s Burton High Fives.
Gretchen Bleiler, another Olympics medalist, laid down a come-from-behind heater (80.60) to grab the third sport on the podium. Bleiler has pulled-off the unthinkable by defying the odds and returning to the pipe, just a year after suffering from a potentially career-ending injury.
Within the men’s ranks, this world-class line-up recognized the chance to launch their Olympics quest with sick performances. The Japanese are bringing it this season, and will be challenging the United States all the way to Sochi.
Taku Hiraoka, silver medalist at the 2013 FIS World Championships, went big by nailing his second run (94.80) featuring a backside 540, frontside 1260, backside 900, 1080 double cork and Cab 1080. “I felt confident and amped going into my second run,” said Hiraoaka. “I was stoked to stomp another frontside 1260, only the second time I’ve done that in competition.” Vancouver Olympian, Ryo Aono notched the bronze podium spot with an 85.00 tally.
American Greg Bretz, split the Japanese lock on the podium, by shredding a 89.40 first run score to nab second place. Bretz, who finished in 12th place in Vancouver in 2010, is seeking another chance in the Olympic spotlight.
The U.S. boarders can use this strong outing as a launch pad for even greater success. Other hopefuls seeking to progress upwards include slopestylers Danielle Adams and Jack Pates; as well as halfpipers Hannah Teter, Elena Hight, Ellery Hollingsworth, Scotty Lago, and Ben Ferguson. Unfortunately, fellow teammate Luke Mitrani had to put his Olympic dreams on hold, as he recovers from a severe broken neck which he sustained on September 1 while training for this event.
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