Words by Jeff Schmuck
Photos by John Vandervalk
The World Ski & Snowboard Festival in Whistler, BC has begun, and things kicked off with a bang (in part thanks to plenty of fireworks) tonight as the World Skiing Invitational portion of the event began with the always crowd-pleasing big air.
A field of 30 men and five women took to the base of Whistler Mountain in front of a jacked-up and massive crowd of weekend warriors to strut their stuff on the more than respectable-sized jump. Each rider got two jumps each and due to the spring-style temperatures this evening and the length of the contest and high number of competitors, the landing got fairly mash potatoey real quick, and as a result many a crashes on just as many double flip attempts ensued.
Highlights in the first round included some slick aerial maneuvers from the likes of the usual big air suspects Jossi Wells (who threw a perfectly laid out backflip just for kicks on his second jump), Colby West, TJ Schiller and Jacob Wester, along with some notable performances from such up-and-comers as LJ Strenio, Bobby Brown, and many, many others.
After the first round the women’s results were announced which saw the young gun Megan Gunning score third, Japan's Maiko Hara take home second, and Rosalind Groenewoud pick up her first big air win with a gigantic 1080 that was as big as some of the guys’ airs.
Following the women’s results the contest continued as the top 10 prevailing men from the first round moved onto the finals which saw the format of years' past return…one jump each for their best 5, 7, 9 and lastly, rider’s choice. The top 10 in question were Jacob Wester, TJ Schiller, Colby West, Ian Cosco, Mike Mertion, Shinji Osasa, LJ Strenio, Kris Atkinson, Erik Hughes and hometown hero Austin Ross.
TJ Schiller and Austin Ross became the next in a long line of victims of the bombed-out landing, as TJ thumped his head a few times and Austin dislocated his shoulder, which the good people from Whistler ski patrol promptly (and loudly) popped back into place.
Cosco faired well throughout the contest, capitalizing his evening with his textbook double cork 12 while his Vernon counterpart Mike Mertion was throwing down equally hard with a sick double of his own on the last jump. LJ Strenio was straight killin it with the dubs all night as well, and continued to show what a breakout star he is as his exciting career continues to flourish by placing third.
No stranger to big airs and always one of the favorites at such contests was Jacob Wester, who skied unsurprisingly consistent all night, and took home second place for his efforts.
But in the end, The Land of the Rising Sun ruled Whistler tonight, as the extremely kind, wonderful and talented Shinji Osada of Japan picked up his first big win in the Western Hemisphere by stomping virtually all of his tricks all night long, which he capped off with a big ol’ switch 1440. Osada's win was an emotional one, as tears of joy began streaming down his face after he was announced as the victor.
As the firework rained down over Whistler the masses made their way to the many fine drinking establishments that this town is so well known for, and the festival officially got off to a rousing start.
the madness begins...
Tomorrow the sixth annual Anti-Comp, the infamous and always hilarious Orage Masters will be going down, and the excitement in the air amongst the athletes for the contest is electric. Stay tuned to NS as we’ll have full coverage on the Masters along with anything and everything that’s going down at WSI over the next week.
1) Rosalind Groenewoud
2) Maiko Hara
3) Megan Gunning
4) Dania Assaly
1) Shinji Osada
2) Jacob Wester
3) LJ Sternio
4) Mike Mertion
5) Chris Atkinson
6) Ian Cosco
7) Colby West
8) Erik Hughes
9) Austin Ross
10) TJ Schiller