It was a successful day in Aspen, Colorado on Friday for Team Canada who claimed two silver medals in the halfpipe World Championships.
Qualifications took place on Wednesday, where six Canadian athletes competed against the world’s best. The conditions proved difficult, with the halfpipe running slow due to a snowstorm the night prior. Out of the six Canadians, four qualified for today’s finals.
On the women’s side, Rachael Karker of Guelph, ON, qualified in first place with a massive score of 94.25, 6.5 points ahead of the next best skier, Great Britain’s Zoe Atkin. Amy Fraser of Halifax, Nova Scotia, fell one spot short of moving on to the finals, ending the day in 9th.
“I am really happy to be back (in the gate),” stated Karker after landing the best qualification run of the day. “My only chance (to qualify for the Olympics this season) other than this event was at X Games, but, super happy to be back in Aspen and in the same pipe and competing with all my friends.”
Just over a month ago, Karker was showcasing her signature smooth skiing in Aspen during the infamous X Games where she claimed bronze, behind teammate and silver medalist Cassie Sharpe. Eileen Gu, of China, was the top skier that day and was crowned X Games champion.
On the men’s side, Brendan Mackay and Noah Bowman of Calgary, AB, who also represented Canada at the X Games, qualified first and third respectively on Wednesday. Vancouver, BC’s Simon d’Artois too made it through to today’s finals, qualifying in sixth. This marks d’Artois first competition since suffering a knee injury during a training camp in 2019.
During today’s finals, the sun was out, the stunt ditch was running fast and the slushy snow gave the competitors extra confidence to push their amplitude. The left halfpipe wall proved tricky as the sun shined directly onto it, turning it into mush. We saw a majority of the competitors run into difficulties on one of their left wall tricks, which included all four of the Canadian skiers.
“The first run didn’t go well for our entire team and that can definitely spook you a bit.” mentioned the halfpipe team head coach, Trennon Paynter. This didn’t stop Racheal Karker and Simon d’Artois from coming back and landing a solid run. “After the whole team missed (landing) their first run, Simon nailed it on his second run, with Rachael also doing well, but then she stepped it up on her third run.”
After crashing on her first run, Karker was able to redeem herself and land a second attempt which placed her in third behind Zoe Atkin (GBR), with a score of 87.25. Karker had one more run to improve her result, and she did just that by going massive and cleaning up her left and right cork 900 Japan grab. This improvement bumped the 23-year-old’s score up to 91.75 and placed her in second place, a mere 1.25 points behind China’s Eileen Gu, today’s gold medal winner.
“It’s definitely a relief landing a solid run. I am really happy to come back after falling in my first run and getting onto the podium,” mentioned Karker after being crowned vice World Champion. “It was really soft today, it makes it easy to hook an edge and not be able to get out, it was a little tricky but I was able to handle it in my second and third runs.”
A similar scenario unfolded for d’Artois. The 29-year-old BC skier showed that he was back in top form by putting down a technical second run full of amplitude. The judges rewarded d’Artois who included a left double cork 1080 and an alley-oop double flat spin 720, two unique tricks that stood out from the rest of the field. With four different doubles in his run, d’Artois’ best score of the day came in at 91.25.
“It feels really good to land a run today,” stated d’Artois. “I’m happy to be back and to see the work and time that I put into coming back stronger from my injury pay off. It definitely gives me confidence for the year to come and lots of relief.”
“It was Simon’s first time competing in two years,” mentioned Paynter when asked about d’Artois’ performance. “He has been out for a long time and it’s been a tough road to go without competing. With his first competition back being a second place at World Champs, I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Uniqueness was certainly also applicable to the top male skier of the day, New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, who, for the second time in competition successfully put down back-to-back left and right double cork 1620’s. The crowned World Champion came out on top with a huge score of 94.50.
Coming into the finals as the top skier, today was a different story for Mackay. His right double 1260 gave him some difficulties on the slushy left wall and he was unable to put down a solid run. Noah Bowman suffered a similar fate to his hometown teammate, unable to land his very last hit after three highly promising technical runs. The Calgary skiers finished the day in 7th and 9th place respectively.
The World Freeski Championships continue on today with the slopestyle finals.