words by Jeff Schmuck
photos by Felix Rioux, Julie Weinberger & Jeff Schmuck
Under snowy skies and a fog thicker than when Jack the Ripper did his thing, the US Open Men’s slopestyle contest went down and the boys slayed the course harder than Jack did the ladies in London.
After two days of qualifying, two heats of 25 took the course this morning to vie for 14 spots in the finals that were held later in the afternoon.
The snow that was pounding the course became a big, big factor as the majority of the competitors had a tough time getting enough speed for the jumps, particularly on the third hit where as many people were taking the smaller take-off as they were casing it.
With ski superstars such as Jon Olsson and Simon Dumont (who both boycotted the event in favor of their upcoming North American Open…plus Simon is hurt), TJ Schiller (who has a blown knee), Tanner Hall (who only wanted to do X-Games this year), PK Hunder (who hurt his ankle at X) and recent X-Games gold medalist Andreas Hatveit not competing, the door was left more open than ever for the unknowns in attendance to step up to the plate and make a name for themselves, something that the Open has always been about.
However despite those six not being there, the talent pool was extremely deep with big names including Sammy Carlson, Jossi Wells, Colby West, Peter Olenick and Charles Gagnier, and the young guns knew they had to be on their game to score themselves a podium spot.
All through semi-finals, the overall vibe towards the comp seemed a bit negative as competitors complained about the slowness of the course due to the snow and the smallness of the jumps, along with a bit of controversy surrounding the judging as for the second time in two weeks, Sammy Carlson plus Lil' John Sternio both failed to qualify for finals after putting down solid runs. Also failing to qualify were competition mainstays Jossi Wells, Mike Riddle and NS favorite Tom Wallisch.
Once the semis were wrapped up, the snow began to subside and Jacob Wester, Peter Olenick, Colby West, Phil Casabon, Tim Russell, Matt Walker, JF Houle, Alexis Godbout, Nick Martini, Russ Henshaw, AJ Kempainen, Walter Woods, Bobby Brown and Okko Raitanen went for the gold.
Tom Wallisch and Nick Martini
Nick Martini kicked things off with a solid run, scoring a 80.2 which left him in the top echelon for the better part of the finals. Jacob and Colby then both threw down, and were followed by what would become the first and second place runs from JF Houle and Australian Russ Henshaw respectively. As the top of the field made their way down the hill, more judging controversy emerged as Phil Casabon landed himself in third and Matt Walker got fifth while the crowd of athletes huddled at the bottom murmured that they should have been first and second.
The second run was more of the same with few of the guys bettering their first offering. At the end of the line all eyes ended up firmly planted on Walker and Casabon to see if they could redeem themselves but in the end it was not to be, and the first run ultimately decided the top rankings.
Much like the Scandinavians dominated the podium at last year’s Open, Quebec took center stage this year with JF Houle taking home the gold and Phil Casabon in third, while Aussie newcomer Russ Henshaw became the proud owner of the silver medal. JF, much like Andreas at last week’s X-Games, called the victory a dream come true after spending the last few years in the top ten at a quiver of major events but failing to reach the podium.
left to right: Russ Henshaw (silver), JF Houle (gold), Phil Casabon (bronze)
1) JF Houle - 86.75
2) Russ Henshaw - 83.75
3) Phil Casabon - 81
4) Nick Martini - 80.25
5) Matt Walker - 78.75
6) Alex Kempainen - 78
7) Tim Russell - 75.5
8) Peter Olenick - 72.25
9) Colby West - 72.25
10) Walter Woods - 71.25
11) Jacob Wester - 70
12) Alexis Godbout - 67.25
13) Bobby Brown - 26.75
14) Okko Raitanen - 14.75
Stay tuned for tomorrow as halfpipe qualifiers go down along with the fabled big air contest, which can be watched live online right here on NS.
Tomorrow will also see coverage from the final day of SIA, where we’ll be showing you next year’s offerings from Orage, Volkl, Armada and K2.