Canada sweeps halfpipe titles
PARK CITY, Utah -- Michael Riddle won the men's gold and Rosalind Groenewoud took the women's, giving Canada a sweep of the halfpipe titles at the Freestyle World Ski Championships in windy conditions Saturday.
The gusts blowing up the pipe and raising swirling clouds of snow at Park City Mountain Resort didn't deter Riddle from executing the run he had in mind since Friday.
"The weather was definitely a challenge. We knew that right when we arrived for training," Riddle said. "On my first run, my whole mentality was to put it to my feet and go through my tricks."
The top qualifier going into the men's final, Riddle clinched first by scoring 45.6 points on a first run that featured several 900-degree turns. Kevin Rolland of France took silver by scoring 45.2 points on his second run and Simon Dumont of the U.S. earned 43.2 points on his first run to claim bronze.
Rolland came into the world championships fresh off a superpipe win at the Winter X Games.
Training had prepared Groenewoud for the strong winds and she posted two solid runs, capturing the win with 44.7 points on her final run.
"Sometimes, in my training runs, I'd just feel a wall of wind completely stopping me. Luckily in my competition run it didn't happen," the Canadian said. "But the tornadoes going up the pipe and blowing snow in the flat and laying it down made skiing the halfpipe a little scary."
Jennifer Hudak of the U.S. earned the top qualifying spot in the final but had to recover from a fall on her first run to claim silver with a score of 42.1 on her second. Canada's Keltie Hansen earned bronze off a first-run score of 38.8.
With their sport auditioning to be included in the 2014 Winter Olympics, putting on a good show mattered as much as winning for many of the skiers.
"Our big goal is to end up in the Olympics," Dumont said. "Hopefully, we proved to the IOC or whoever else needs to approve it that we're here and we're serious. We're going to ski in a hurricane, put down some runs and try to put on a good show -- no matter what happens."
The athletes believe their sport deserves Olympic status because of the technical skills it requires.
"It's a challenging sport because to get better and continue progressing, you have to learn those new tricks," Hudak said. "But it's hard to rely on the new tricks until you've had some mileage with them."
Besides sending a message to the IOC, Riddle and Groenewoud were pleased to continue Canada's recent dominance in freestyle skiing. She credited a strong grass-roots program for the country's success in the sport.
"We're definitely at the top of freestyle right now," Groenewoud said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press