The men’s and women’s freeski halfpipe finals kicked off the final day of the 2023 World Championships in Bakuriani, Georgia.
Since her debut on the international halfpipe circuit a few years ago, Hanna Faulhaber has been knocking at the door of the sport’s elite with her umatched amplitude. Today, however, marked her first big victory—and nothing less than a world champion title.
Faulhaber improved her score on each of three runs, finally overtaking the lead on her final run in the Bakuriani pipe. Her winning run featured her signature lofty straight-air tail grab into a left 900 safety, a flair with critical grab, left 720 mute, a switch right cork 720 japan, and a left 540 japan to wrap things off. More than anything, it was the addition of the switch right spin, a new trick for Faulhaber, that elevated her run to the gold-medal spot.
Gold medal run | Hanna Faulhaber | 2023 World Championships Halfpipe, Bakuriani, Georgia
Coming in second just 1.25 points behind Hanna was British competitor Zoe Atkin, who put together a clean run featuring grabbed spins in all directions, but was lacking the oomph of a 900 to take the top spot, although she led after the second run.
Third place went to Canadian halfpipe veteran Rachael Karker, whose back to back cork 900 remain a combo to be reckoned with, even if the japan grab was a bit hard to spot at times.
The Downdays shoutout goes to the impressive switch skiing of Canada’s Amy Fraser and China’s Kexin Zhang. Switch skiing in the pipe isn’t nearly as easy as these two women make it look! Rookie Svea Irving also made a strong performance—we’ll be looking forward to more from her in the future.
The men’s event saw Canada’s Brendan Mackay firmly in control over much of the contest, and holding off a late challenge from Finnish up-and-comer Jon Salinen. Top qualifier Mackay put down his run clean on his first try for a score of 94: switch alley-oop left double 900 critical, switch left double 1080 safety, right 900 tail, left double 12 tail, right double 12 (missed grab?), sliding into the lead ahead of Sallinen and Alex Ferreira.
On the third run, Sallinen made his bid for gold with perhaps the day’s most technical run, linking all four dubs—a rare sight in halfpipe contests these days. Switch left double 10 japan, right double 12 double japan, left 10 cuban, switch right double 10 japan, left double 12 safety to japan—let’s go! Sallinen took over first with a score of 95.75.
Mackay, however, rose to the challenge, replacing his left double 12 with a double 16 and going absolutely massive on his last two hits, boosting straight back to the gold medal with a score of 97.25.
Gold medal run | Brendan Mackay | 2023 Bakuriani World Championship Halfpipe
“The second Jon put down his (third) run, I was pretty sure they were going to put him above me. That run is crazy,” Mackay said. “I was pretty sure I needed something big the second he landed, and when I saw his score come in it was like, ‘Alright, let’s go, it’s on.’ I had to try to compete with it and I’m happy I did.”
“Last World Champs I qualified in first and couldn’t put it down,” he continued. “Doing the same here (qualifying in first) I was really hoping I could just put some runs down, and putting down the first run felt great, but I was pretty damn sure I was going to need more because everyone is skiing so well.”
Third place went to Alex Ferreira on the strength of his third run. With a switch left 900 japan, switch right double 10 japan, and a left double 12 safety into back-to-back 1620 safetys, Ferreira scored a 93 to claim bronze, while being the only competitor to link 1620s.
The Downdays shoutout goes to two riders at the opposite end of the spectrum. First, to young-gun Ben Harrington, who brought a lot of energy, flow and amplitude to the pipe on his way to a very respectable fifth-place finish. With a couple more switch and rightside tricks in his bag, he’s a sure bet for the podium. Our other nod goes out to Mr. Kevin Rolland, who at the ripe old age of 33 and with multiple career-ending injuries behind him, is still somehow out there throwing down with the best of them.
Last but not least, we hope that David Wise is feeling alright after he left the pipe in obvious pain after a crash on his third run.
1. Hanna Faulhaber
2. Zoe Atkin
3. Rachael Karker
4. Kexin Zhang
5. Amy Fraser
6. Svea Irving
7. Brita Sigourney
8. Dillan Glennie
1. Brendan Mackay
2. Jon Sallinen
3. Alex Ferreira
4. Simon D’Artois
5. Ben Harrington
6. Dylan Ladd
7. Kevin Rolland
8. Tristan Feinberg
9. David Wise
10. Robin Briguet