An overcast day, slow speed, flat light: the perfect recipe for what could have been an uninspiring Big Air contest. But none of that held French phenom Tess Ledeux back on her way to a dominant victory, one that included the first double cork 1620 in women’s competition.
On a day when it seemed inadvisable to push the limits, Tess Ledeux went for broke and landed this world's-first double cork 1620 tindy. Photo: Joshua R. Gateley/ESPN Images
After landing her trademark left double cork 1260 mute, the 20-year-old from La Plagne unpacked the double 1620 with a tindy grab, landing it after two tries for a near-perfect score of 49 (out of 50). With her two double corks in the bag, she led the competition by double digits throughout most of the 30-minute jam session.
Tess backed up the 16 with her bread-and-butter double cork 1260 mute. Photo: Gabriel Christus/ESPN Images
With two very clean double cork 1260 safeties—one to the left and one to the right side—Canada’s Megan Oldham skied to a well-deserved second place. Her compatriot Olivia Asselin, the only X Games rookie in the field, locked down the bronze medal with a right double flatspin 900 and a stylish left double cork 1260 tail.
Megan Oldham's mirrored left and right double cork 1260 safetys were more than good enough for second place. Photo: Gabriel Christus/ESPN Images
Maggie Voisin narrowly missed the podium just a few points behind Asselin. The USA’s leading woman in Big Air showed off her impressive rodeo 900 japan and even added an extra safety grab at the end of the rotation, but couldn’t lock in a clean grab on her left double cork 1260 safety to break into the top three.
Maggie Voisin showed off a nice rodeo 900 japan to safety, but today's podium was reserved for the double corkers. Photo: Eric Lars Bakke/ESPN Images
While Tess and the Canadians thrived in the day’s difficult conditions, others faltered. Defending gold medalist Mathilde Gremaud pulled out of the contest after crashing twice on her usually rock-solid right rodeo 900 tail. Her Swiss teammate Giulia Tanno was able to put down a clean double cork 10, but couldn’t back it up with a high-scoring second trick. The usually reliable Johanne Killi also had difficulties, both in locking in the japan grab on her switch double and in landing a leftside 900 tail. And Elena Gaskell took a couple hard crashes while going for a leftside bio 12.
Defending champ Mathilde Gremaud had an uncharacteristic down day, crashing twice on her safety trick before backing out of the contest. Photo: Eric Lars Bakke/ESPN Images
Now that I’ve discussed the skiing, let’s get to my favorite part of any X Games article: hating on the format and, of course, the commentating.
The format: Well, at least they’re doing scores again. Even though they still feel like an afterthought in the X Games’ rushed, obviously made-for-TV presentation, a “jam session” that’s not actually a jam session because the riders are skiing in order. And remember when the X Games had qualifying events, with an diverse field of riders and unexpected new faces? Pepperidge Farms remembers.
Speaking of riders, this contest was noticeably absent a few luminaries: Eileen Gu, who’s been unstoppable in Big Air so far this season (apparently focusing on the Olympics); Kelly Sildaru (apparently focusing on halfpipe and slopestyle); and Sarah Hoefflin, who hit her head during training and withdrew from the contest. Nevertheless, it’s doubtful any of these women could have topped Tess’s massive performance today.
Now, the commentating. Either I’m getting smarter (not likely) or these commentators are getting dumber. Jen Hudak, I get it, you’re an former freeski pro, you know the game. Can you at least TRY to pay attention to the tricks these women are throwing? A 10 ain’t a 12 and a double cork isn’t a single. Is this too much to ask? But then again, making fun of the commentary is half the fun of watching the X Games—so keep up the good work.
But enough of my griping. Today was without a doubt Tess Ledeux’s day, so let’s let her have it.
Photo: Joshua R. Gately/ESPN Images