It's fair to say that slopestyle is probably the most tightly contested of the freeski disciplines at the Beijing Games. We certainly didn't call today's medalists (particularly one of them) ahead of time. Qualifying yesterday was ample evidence of what was in store for the finals and there was plenty of creativity on show. Daniel Bacher deserves a shoutout for his unique rail run, despite not making finals. He flowed between the obstacles unlike anyone else in the contest and gave a hint of what slopestyle could be with a little nudge in that direction from course designers and judges.
Finals saw deceptively sunny skies... deceptive because it was bitterly cold and gusty, making conditions a challenge despite appearances. There was plenty of creativity on show again, as well as some insane skiing. It feels like slopestyle, at least when the course is decent, has become far more interesting again with totally different styles and trick selections on show from the majority of riders in today's finals.
As with the ladies yesterday, it took a little while for things to get going, and there were issues on several of the opening runs. Fabian Boesch was the first to put down a top to bottom banger, getting flippy on two of three rail features (and potentially got Jesper'd a bit on the score). Matej brought the skrrrt and returned afterbang to the Olympic stage, but he did have a second rail feature mistake which hurt his score. Colby Stevenson put a run down too but was a little low on speed on the pagoda feature. His nosebutter 270 onto the cannon was still a thing of beauty though. Then Alex Hall happened to the Olympics. He had a solid rail line but it was on the jumps he came alive: Dub 16 tweaked japan, switch 7 to switch 5 on the butter pad, and his insane right dub ten pretzel on the final jump, scoring 90.01 and taking a commanding lead. Jesper also stomped a banger, though the switch triple 12 (super flippy) over the roller feature and all the way down the landing was more crazy than beautiful, the rest of the run was fire.
Again, Oliwer Magnusson and Max Moffat, who were heading up the run order, struggled. But it was so sick to see Max swap his switch cork 4 on to a regular cork 4 having landed unexpectedly forward off the first rail feature, skills. Matej crashed early and tried what looked like a cork 180 attempt over the roller for shits and giggles. Alex Hall put it down again, with a slight issue on the first rail feature but an improvement, pretzel 4ing out of his switch 2 on to the second. Judges weighed the bobble more heavily though and he didn't improve. Nick Goepper was the first to make a huge improvement, going for the ultra-tech approach all throughout. The switch 450 on to the first rail and dub 14 blunt on the quarterpipe hit were the highlights for us. He also mirrored tricks, and really put his run together tactically, takin an 86.48 for his efforts and moving into provisional second. Andri put it down clean at the second time of asking too. Perhaps his rail tech just wasn't enough to pip the top spots, because he only scored an 83, with the front swap transfer pretz 2 potentially the guilty party.
The first rail feature was Max Moffat's nemesis today and he couldn't put together a t2b, despite a podium potential run in his bag. He won the Olympic social media battle though. Matej managed a clean rail section, the switch 2 tail tap continuing 2 over the transfer was sick and he was oozing style on another level. But unfortunately, he came undone on the jumps, another guy with podium potential who couldn't quite put it down today. Ben Barclay put a run down third try but despite a high tech level, it was all straight lines and that was clearly not what the judges were looking for today. It wasn't Colby's day either, not really making it through the rail section clean in any of his runs. Alex Hall bobbled, leaving the proverbial door open for the remaining athletes. Goepper and Tjader failed to improve, but Birk Ruud put his first run of the day down. His 540 on to the butter pad to continuing switch 2 was dope, but he popped off a little early. He went pretz 2 rather than 4 on his second rail too and despite a solid jump run, it wasn't enough for the podium. Andri was last to drop, on the outside looking in. But even his machine-like skills and mindset weren't enough to handle that level of pressure, missing the switch dub bio on the corked jumps. That left Alex Hall with the gold, Goepper with a third Olympic medal in silver and, almost unbelievably, Jesper Tjader with an Olympic slopestyle medal (finally a result for the most perenially underscored man in skiing).
GOLD: Alex Hall
SILVER: Nick Goepper
BRONZE: Jesper Tjader