words by Jeff Schmuck
photos by Felix Rioux
It was another great day at Copper Mountain, Colorado today as the US Open warpped things up with the menâ€™s halfpipe semi-finals and finals.
The weather continued to be favorable for the better part of the event and although a bit of snow flew during the finals, it wasnâ€™t a factor for the competitors. The pipe itself seemed quite well-done but was noticeably smaller than last weekâ€™s X-Games, which ultimately led to less of an amplitude display than we had in Aspen.
Shredding the semi-finals was the perma-stoked Sean Field, the consistently solid Dan Marion, last nightâ€™s big air winner Colby West and the style master Stefan Thomas.
Others putting down head-turning performances included Jossi Wellsâ€™ younger brother Byron and Xavier Bertoni from France, whoâ€™s beginning to make some noise in the freeski world. Also killing it were relative unknowns Taylor Seaton, Lyndon Sheehan, Jon Marks and Kalle Leinonen, who took advantage of the absence of the Tannerâ€™s and Simonâ€™s of the world to step up to the plate and hit a home run. All day long the four newcomers were going absolutely huge and throwing textbook 9â€™s and 10â€™s much to the delight of the crowd.
But But the story of the semis that carried into the finals was another unknown, AJ Kempainen, a Salomon rider from Finland who had more than respectable showings in slopestlye and big air, throwing down the most technical and (next to Stefan) stylish runs of the day and continuing to prove that the Scandinavians are a force to be reckoned with on the competition circuit.
As the finals began the crowd started to thin with Superbowl kick-off on the horizon. Also absent from the proceedings were podium players Mike Riddle and Peter Olenick, who both fell in semis. As the sun continued to shine the boys started stepping up their game in a big way, making the pipe comp one to remember. Franceâ€™s Xavier Bertoni was throwing a kick ass switch 10 off the top hit while Byron continued to let everyone know that Jossi isnâ€™t the only Wells to talk about.
John Symms was throwing down hard but had crashed hard on his last run taking him out of the running. The fantastic four of Seaton, Sheehan, Marks and Leinonen continued to put on a show while pipe superstar Matt Hayward couldnâ€™t hold together a clean run, bumping him down the list.
Throughout the second and third runs the leader board changed more than Axl Rose at GNR concert in the 90â€™s, but in the end, the day belonged to AJ Kempainen, who was impressing the judges, crowd and fellow athletes with his flawless runs (come to think of it, I donâ€™t think he fell once all day) and causing many a whispers of â€˜who is this kid and where did he come fromâ€™ amongst industry types.
Rounding out the up-and-coming dominated podium was Taylor Seaton and Xavier Bertoni, whoâ€™s huge airs and technical prowess respectively had the judges nodding their heads all day long.Results
1) AJ Kempainen
2) Taylor Seaton
3) Xavier Bertoni
4) Stefan Thomas
5) Kalle Leinonen
6) Lyndon Sheehan
7) Dan marion
8) Jon Marks
9) Sean Field
10) Byron Wells
11) Colby West
12) Tyler Peterson
13) Jon Cyrulik
14) Matt Hayward
15) Brent Abrams
16) John Symms
So there you have it. Another US Open in the bag, and although each venue left a little to be desired this year, the spirit of the event stayed true with a good chunk of unknowns taking advantage of the opportunity to make a name for themselves at the biggest open event of the yearâ€¦and doing it well.