After a four-year wait, the Olympics have passed in a flash. Saturday morning (in China) saw the last freeski event of the Beijing games go down in Genting. This was a final stacked with legends; Gus Kenworthy, Keven Rolland, and David Wise are all still at the top of the game, mixing it with the young guns of the sport. But as with the women's event yesterday, the men's finale saw swirling winds playing a role and making things tricky despite the (great) wind wall on the skier's left of the pipe.
The level of skiing in the field was so high that everyone was forced to send it from the off, knowing that at least three people would stomp a run despite the wind, so we saw no half-stepping and a fair number of crashes. It was a great show to close out the games but the riders would have hoped for better conditions. If it hadn't been so close to the end of the games, we might have seen this one postponed until conditions improved but nonetheless, we saw three deserving medalists crowned.
Things opened up with a handful of crashes but Miguel Porteous put down a dope run with back-to-back switch dubs up top, and back-to-back dub 12s at the bottom, but he landed backseat on the final hit. Alex Ferreira was the first to put it down clean but got caught in the wind dropping in, limiting the amplitude on his first hit switch 7. He picked up speed and went massive on his dub 14 scoring 86. Noah Bowman put it down too but skipped one of his switch doubles as the wind blasted the pipe. David Wise went absolutely huge and capped a super nice nose mute on his switch dub, taking a deserved lead with 90.75. Birk Iriving stomped too but perhaps slightly lacked on the boost factor and 'only' throwing the two dubs (right 12/left 14) for 80. Nico Porteous threw down from the word go, he didn't go as big as Wise but the tech level was through the roof (switch right 9, switch left dub 10, back to back dub 16s and an alley-oop dub flat 9 to end) for 93.00. Aaron Blunck bobbled a couple of times, almost running out of pipe on a sendy last hit 9, leaving Nico and Wise leading the pack after run one.
The beginning of run two saw worse conditions wind-wise, with Gus K taking a heavy hit on his opening dub 12. Kevin Rolland put his run down, which was incredible to see after the journey he has been on in recent years. It's crazy to see him skiing again at all, let alone competing at this level and he seemed stoked just to make it to the bottom of the pipe. Alex Ferreira added a right dub 16 to his run, backing it up with the left dub 14, going big but missing a grab on his switch dub 10 which stopped him from improving. Noah Bowman put it to his feet again but only improved by 0.5 points. Brendan Mackay landed his run, the alley-oop switch dub 9 to start things off was dope but he wasn't clean enough to challenge the top three. David Wise took a heavy hit, Nico Porteous got caught in the wind and Aaron Blunck didn't have much luck with the conditions either. He stomped a run but he skipped the downpipe dub 9 he usually throws on the penultimate hit which hit his score hard.
Gus Kenworthy stomped a run for the final time in his career, and while it only scored 71.25 it was amazing to see him put it down. Good luck for the future and thank you, Gus. The wind was literally howling by this point and it was hard to see anyone improving. Kevin Rolland, another legend likely to bow out at these games, greased another lap through the pipe with a final hit dub 14 moving him into provisional sixth. Simon D'Artois sent a HUGE air to fakie at the top of his run, and while the run didn't challenge the top, that opening hit was a definite highlight. We vote for a mandatory straight air in all pipe runs. Alex Ferreira made it three from three but he missed the blunt on his dub 16. That left him third and watching the remaining riders, hoping to keep hold of bronze. Noah Bowman, Brendan Mackay, David Wise (sitting in second), and Birk Irving all dropped and failed to improve their positions. The penultimate rider, Nico, slammed pretty hard leaving Aaron Blunck with a chance to swing for gold. He went for it but took almost exactly the same slam as Nico, whose celebrations were postponed as he waited to check Aaron was ok. It wasn't the perfect contest, all three podium runs came in run one, but it's hard to argue with Nico taking the W.
GOLD: Nico Porteous
SILVER: David Wise
BRONZE: Alex Ferreira