By Elle Forchielli
Vail, Colorado -- Last year's champion Marie Martinod took first place again in the 2004 US Open superpipe, beating out several big names. Her ease in the pipe was visible from a series of stylie tricks coupled with big amplitude and a huge smile at the finish. Martinod's numerous 540s and 720s were more than enough to wow the judges into a first place finish. Sponsor Dynastar must have been pleased to see two of its athletes win gold in the superpipe. It was awesome to see both Marie Martinod and Dave Crichton recognized for their incredible style.
No stranger to the superpipe herself, Jamie Sundberg of Jackson, Wyoming, took second place. A veteran of the Freeskiing Open, Sundberg was finally able to grab a medal after a solid run with consistently good air out of the pipe including a wicked (yes, wicked!!! east coast represent!!!) 540. In only her second year of skiing pipe, Okemo's Jennifer Hudak placed third. Although Hudak didn't quite display the same level of technical difficulty as Martinod and Sundberg, the high school senior proved herself as a new face in the industry by skiing consistently all day with notable amplitude. Props to Jen for her bronze as well as for being a NS.com member.
Traditional favorite Sarah Burke was absent from the superpipe competition this Sunday. During the Open's slopestyle practice, Burke took a bad fall, breaking her thumb. Despite the injury, Burke was there to support friends and participating skiers. The much-celebrated Kristi Leskinen didn't have her day in the u-ditch, either. Unable to pull it together to the judges' standards, Leskinen missed the podium.
Women's progression in freeskiing remains visible with many new names emerging over the course of the weekend, including slopestyle winner Grete Eliasson. The US Open saw nearly thirty women battle it out in the halfpipe, a huge increase compared to last year. Not only were there more women, but they were going bigger and throwing better tricks. It's time the guys took note, ladies, keep up the good work.