Words: Daniel Baur (Raiders.ch)
Photos: Matthias Indermühle (snowworldpictures.ch)
Day One. Rain at a ski event. Like the bully who destroys your sand castle or the police officer at your high school party, a torrential downpour hammered the first day of Freestyle.ch in Zurich, Switzerland and it appeared to have no intention of leaving. Nevertheless, nearby stores selling rubber boots and plastic bags scored themselves an increase in sales as 30,000 fans were undeterred, and tormented the innocent grassland to take in the weekend’s festivities in an event that somewhat resembled an action sports Woodstock. And although Mother Nature nearly forced the cancellation of the motocross portion of the event (due to the slippery in-run and take off), the ghastly weather did not stop the ski, snowboard and skateboard athletes from holding back at the first major event of the 2010/11 season.
The pouring rain delayed the big air qualifications for two hours before Simon Dumont, Sammy Carlson, TJ Schiller, Tom Wallisch, Henrik Harlaut, PK Hunder, Elias Ambühl, Nicolas Vuignier, Bene Mayr, Markus Eder, Jon Olsson, Paddy Graham, Jacob Wester, Andreas Hatveit, Russ Henshaw and Laurent Favre did their best to cope with the slow in-run and slushy landing. And before you go thinking it was a mellow showing, their “best” consisted of massive double corks peppered with double grabs and smooth style.
Each rider had three jumps. One based on technical tricks, one based on style and one free jump. The top eight riders out of the 16 in contention would proceed to Sunday’s semi-finals. Zen-master of steeze Henrik Harlaut took first place, with new kid on the block Bene Mayr and local hero Elias Ambühl right behind him, along with PK Hunder, Sammy Carlson and Andreas Håtveit, while big air masterminds Russ Henshaw and Jon Olsson lost out to Simon Dumont and Tom Wallisch in a close call for the last two spots in the finals.
The crowd then shifted en masse to find something warm to duck under while waiting for the Crossover Session to begin. The Crossover Session takes the best six riders from each discipline (sking, snowboarding and skateboarding) and lets them compete against each other to crown the overall Crossover.Champ based on the crowd’s response.
Following the first round, four athletes from each discipline took up their swords to defend the honor of whatever sport they belonged to. The four skiing Navy Seals drew first blood with some rapid-fire action. Elias stomped a topless double cork mute, Dumont threw down his crowd pleasing double superman frontflip and Tom Wallisch looked like he was taking a nap during his slow and smooth switch backflip. The skateboarding and snowboarding were great, but fortunately for us, the crowd thought skiing was just a bit better, as Tom Wallisch was the biggest crowd pleaser of the night and took home the title of Crossover.Champ as a result. Following the coronation, the aforementioned pleased crowd then made their way towards the numerous evening establishments in town to get revenge on the rain by annihilating anything that looked familiar to liquid.
Freestyle.ch Crossover.Champ Tom Wallisch
Day 2 – “Drinking it blue” worked. To the delight of all, the bad weather was nowhere to be found on Sunday, allowing the semi-finals and finals to take place as planned. Even the FMX guys got a shot at showing the crowd what you can do with one of those “wroom-wroom” machines.
The 40-minute long jam session semi-finals would kick out another four candidates and determine the final four, which turned out to be Elias Ambühl, Henrik Harlaut, Andreas Håtveit and Sammy Carlson, who were simply unbeatable during the jam.
In the finals each of the four skiers got two jumps, with the best one counting. PK bailed on his first double cork and Elias had a bit of trouble with his landing as well. Andreas and Henrik on the other hand put their tricks to their feet, but not as smooth as they would have liked. On the second run PK tried a double cork 12 double grab, but unfortunately couldn’t put it to his feet, along with Andreas on his double cork 10 double japan, who crashed as well. Then it was Elias’ turn. The 18-year old Swiss cannonball threw a perfect double cork 10 with a unique double grab and stomped it, much to the delight of his local fans.
The pressure was then on Henrik to show some serious some balls, who impressed the judges enough with his massive and stylish switch double cork 9 safety grab to pick up the win. Not everyone in the crowd shared the judges’ opinion, as while the grab and difficulty of Elias’ jump was higher, the judges decided to go a different route and gave the win to Henrik due to style.
Freestyle.ch Champion Henrik Harlaut
1) Henrik Harlaut
2) Elias Ambühl
3) Andreas Håtveit
4) PK Hunder
5) Bene Mayr
6) Sammy Carlson
7) Tom Wallisch
8) Simon Dumont
9) Russ Henshaw
10) Jon Olsson
11) Paddy Graham
12) Nicolas Vuignier
13) Markus Eder
14) TJ Schiller
15) Laurent Favre
16) Jacob Wester