PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) At least the Americans have the Phoenix Snow Park halfpipe.
Freestyle skier David Wise successfully defended his gold medal Thursday, breaking through on his final run to give the U.S. its third gold medal in the halfpipe at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Wise wiped out on each of his first two runs when his skis popped off his feet. After swapping out his skis and cranking up the bindings for his final try, he sneaked past countryman Alex Ferreira with a score of 97.20.
It was a dream run for Wise, who landed double corks in all four directions – front left, front right, switch (backward) left and switch right.
”Putting all four of them into a run is certainly the most challenging thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
It’s the seventh gold medal for the U.S. in Pyeongchang, five of which have come at Phoenix Snow Park, including those from snowboarders Chloe Kim, Shaun White, Red Gerard and Jamie Anderson.
The snowboard and freestyle skiing crews have picked up the slack for the U.S. team in these Olympics. Those competitors have accounted for 10 of the country’s 19 medals, many of them at the snow park located an hour away from the Gangneung Olympic Plaza.
Ferreira took silver, and 16-year-old Nico Porteous from New Zealand got bronze. It was the second medal of the day for the Kiwis after snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott won bronze in Big Air to end New Zealand’s 26-year Winter Games drought.
Porteous was so nervous before the competition that he vomited three times, and yet on his second run, he pushed past Ferreira for the top spot, shocking even himself by landing five double corks and getting a score of 94.80. His jaw dropped and he pumped his arms when it was announced.
Porteous didn’t even bother trying on the third run, cruising through the halfpipe without a trick and waiting at the bottom for the other competitors.
”I had nothing left,” Porteous said. ”That was me. That was all I had left in the bag. I hope people didn’t see that as me being cocky because I really had nothing left. That was the best run I’ve ever done in my life.”
Ferreira stormed past Porteous on his second run. The 23-year-old American spun his right ski pole over his head at the bottom of the halfpipe, then threw up his hands when the judges gave him a 96.00.
Wise put down his double-cork dream run a few minutes later, and Ferreira could only counter with a 96.40.
It was a clutch show for Wise, who was on track to knock out all four double corks in each of his first two runs before binding issues left him sprawled in the snow.
”For Run 3, we cranked my bindings up as high as they go,” he said. ”We’re like, `You know what, my leg’s coming off before the ski does.”’
The ski stayed put through all of Wise’s flips and spins, making him a two-time winner in an Olympic sport that was introduced at Sochi four years ago.
Wise had a big cheering section of family and friends at the bottom of the halfpipe, and most of them had ”David Wise” written on their faces. Wise’s sister, Christy, is an Air Force rescue pilot who lost a leg in a paddleboarding accident in 2015, and Wise is giving 10 percent of his earnings this season to a foundation he and his sisters created: One Leg Up On Life.
The Americans had eyed a podium sweep in the halfpipe, with Torin Yater-Wallace and Aaron Blunck also among the favorites. Yater-Wallace failed to complete a clean run, including a gnarly crash midway through his third try, and finished ninth. Blunck’s best effort was an 84.80 on his final run, good for seventh.
The U.S. last swept a podium in Sochi, when Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper won the men’s skiing slopestyle. The U.S. also swept the 2002 men’s snowboard halfpipe and the 1956 men’s figure skating.
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