Words by Victoria Murray-Orr
Photos by Camilla Stoddart & Hannah Johnston/Getty Images
Video by Jase Hancox
The eighth day of 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games saw the freeski athletes flying high in the Air New Zealand Big Air at Cardrona Alpine Resort with American’s Joss Christensen and Devin Logan taking the top spots.
The day began under glorious blue skies with a field of 20 men competing in two qualifying heats of 10 for the top eight spots. With three runs per round, the best two different jumps were combined for a final score in the qualifications. The heavily stacked women’s field of seven went straight to a four run final.
Competition amongst the world’s top freeskiers was heated with double cork 10’s and 12’s being the call of the day. The first heat saw Gus Kenworthy throwing a double 14 to once again take the lead in his quest to win his third event of the week. The standout in heat two was Joss Christensen’s switch double cork 1080 tail to shift, which scored him 95 points.
The men’s finals read like a who’s who from freeskiing with a field heavily dominated by Americans including Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy, David Wise, Nicholas Goepper, and Christopher Laker. New Zealand’s Jossi Wells landed his spot in the finals and the final two were Norway’s Pc Fosse and Switzerland’s Kai Mahler, the youngest in the field at only 15.
The men went head to head in a knockout format with three runs per round and a final score based on the best two different jumps, and in the end Joss Christensen was the man of the day pulling off the first ever double misty 12 in competition and consistently landing his tricks.
At the finish line Christensen said he was surprised to have even made it through to the finals, “My adrenaline’s pumping. I’m stoked. I was feeling a bit beat up after the slopestyle so today’s win is a total surprise. I’m happy to have landed all my tricks. If I hadn’t Kai would have definitely been on top of the podium today.”
This is Joss’s first visit to New Zealand. “I’m stoked to be here and loving it so far. It’s great to be visiting the land of the Lord of the Rings.”
Ending the day in second was 15-year-old Kai Mahler who was the leader going into the final round with the best trick of the day, a switch double misty 14. He failed to land his jumps in the final round of competition costing him the gold.
Hometown boy, Jossi Wells, will once again grace the podium after taking silver in both slopestyle and halfpipe, his fluidity and control earned him the third place finish.
Commenting earlier in the day about how fourth place was the worst place to end a competition he promised he would go big in the final round and he did. “It’s always a good day when you’re on the podium,” said Wells. “I’m a bit shattered, we’ve been skiing since 8:30 this morning. It was great to watch Kai; he’s insane. Also great to see my homey, Joss Christensen, from back in the day at Park City win. The Winter Games rules.”
In the women’s field AFP Overall World Champion Devin Logan scored a trifecta becoming the winner of all three freeski events, halfpipe, slopestyle and big air. “Logan took the women’s field by 20 points,” said head judge Rafael Regazzoni. “She’s been super consistent throughout the week, landing all her tricks and mixing it up with different tricks. Her best tricks today were her rodeo 5 and 7 tailgrab.”
An excited Logan commented, “I got the Turkey (as they would say in bowling). Now if only more women would come over and compete.” This was Logan’s first Winter Games and second visit to New Zealand having competed last year at the Junior World Championships where she podiumed in third place in slopestyle and halfpipe. “I’ll definitely be back.”
America’s Jen Hudak who crashed pretty hard on her second and third run came back in her fourth run to take second, while up and coming New Zealander Rose Battersby (Taupo) saw her first podium at an international event placing third today. “It’s great to see a kiwi girl coming through and showing huge potential for a spot in Sochi,” said judge Victoria Beattie.
This was Battersby’s first big air competition. “I’m so stoked to end in third place, and to have landed my 7’s and 3’s” said Battersby. “I wasn’t aiming to win it’s just great to be here. It’s awesome to have a competition of this level here in New Zealand and to get to compete against all the top level girls.”
Jossi Wells (3rd), Joss Christensen (1st), Kai Mahler (2nd)
1) Joss Christensen
2) Kai Mahler
3) Jossi Wells
4) PC Fosse
5) David Wise
6) Gus Kenworthy
7) Chris Laker
8) Nick Goepper
9) Takumi Toyama
10) Lyman Currier
11) Jonas Hunziker
12) Yu Yoneya
13) Noah Morrison
14) Colby James West
15) Cyrill Hunziker
16) Erik Hughes
17) Frederick Iliano
18) Yannic Lerjen
19) Kentaro Tsuda
20) Beau-James Wells
Rose Battersby (3rd), Devin Logan (1st), Jen Hudak (2nd)
1) Devin Logan
2) Jen Hudak
3) Rose Battersby
4) Anais Caradeux
The New Zealand Winter Games is the first event of the year on the AFP calendar, so to see how it will affect the 2011-2012 AFP World Tour Rankings, go to afpworldtour.com.
Michael Hill TV Winter Games, Freeski Big AIr from Jase Hancox BASKET PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.