Gale-force winds put a bit of a damper on today’s men’s ski halfpipe finals at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, as what was intended to be the highlight finale of freeskiing at the Olympics turned into a battle against the elements.
With alpine racing contests on hold due to the wind, halfpipe skiers nevertheless were given the green light to drop into the wind-scoured Secret Garden Olympic Halfpipe.
“Look at it just barreling right now,” said top qualifier Aaron Blunck after his first run, inspecting the wind curling off the coping of the pipe. “Should we bail on the contest and just do slash photos?” Honestly, that might have been the best idea.
The adverse conditions made for quite a few crashes, which luckily everyone seemed to emerge from relatively unscathed. The podium was already practically decided after the first run. Nico Porteous locked down the gold medal with the day’s most technical performance, even if it wasn’t the biggest in terms of amplitude: switch right 900 mute, switch left double 1080 safety, right double 1620 mute, left double 1620 safety, alley-oop left double flatspin 900 japan. A year after debuting them for the first time, Porteous’ back to back 16s are still the combo to be beaten in men’s pipe.
Two-time gold medalist David Wise skied to the silver medal, a hugely admirable feat for a guy that should probably be taking “honorary” pipe runs at this point rather than seriously contesting the top of the podium. Nevertheless, Wise went large and in charge, linking a switch right 900 tail, switch left double 1080 mute grabbed way out on the nose, right 900 tail, and flawless back to back left and right double 12 mutes for a score of 90.75. “It is wild in there!” was his comment on the windy conditions.
The bronze medal went to Alex Ferreira, 2018’s silver medalist, who linked up one of the day’s most impressive combos—right double 12 mute, left double 14 safety and a massive switch right double 10 japan—for a score of 86.75.
Obviously uninspired by the conditions, top qualifier Aaron Blunck held back until his final run, when he missed his pop on his switch rightside double and took a hard crash. 2014 silver medalist Gus Kenworthy also took a nasty slam on the coping on his second run, but popped back up as if it were nothing, and even tossed in a cork 5 blunt at the bottom of the pipe for good measure. The other highlight crash of the day came from Nico Porteous, when he went all in on an attempt at a switch left double 12 on his third run, but only managed one and a half flips. “I landed on my head!” he noted.
Missing the podium were Canadian switch skiing specialist Noah Bowman in fourth and American Birk Irving in fifth. Making a triumphant return to the Olympic halfpipe for the third time after what should have been a career-ending crash while trying to break the quarterpipe high air record in 2019, Kevin Rolland skied to a commendable sixth place.
An honorable mention goes to Simon D’Artois in tenth place, who totally changed up his approach on his third run and showed us something different with a massive air to fakie and an alley-oop double cork 10. It wasn’t Miguel Porteous’s day; he put down the only run with double corks in all four directions, but missed some key grabs. Brendan Mackay also couldn’t convert on a high-scoring run, and Swiss competitor Robin Briguet unfortunately lost a ski on all three of his attempts.