Hirano, Kim win snowboard pipe at Copper | CraigDailyPress.com

Hirano, Kim win snowboard pipe at Copper

Antonio Olivero
Summit Daily News
Ayumu Hirano, of Japan, following his last run in the halfpipe finals during the U.S. Grand Prix World Cup event Saturday, Dec. 9, at Copper Mountain. Hirano took home first with a high score of 95.25.
Hugh Carey | hcarey@summitdaily.com |

COPPER MOUNTAIN — On a day when seven American men attempted to get ahead on Olympic qualification via a podium finish at the U.S. Grand Prix World Cup snowboarding finals at Copper Mountain Resort on Saturday, Dec. 9, it was Ben Ferguson of Bend, Oregon, who left the Woodward superpipe in the best position.

At the first Olympic qualifier of the season, Ferguson was awarded an 89.75 on his second run. It featured a bag of new tricks that the 22-year-old said are completely changed from the past couple of years, namely the switch McTwist and switch double backflip that he ended his runs with. He nailed those after dropping in with a back 1 into the halfpipe, followed by a cab double 10, a double crippler and a back 3, before his new finale.

“I think I just got more consistent (since last year),” Ferguson said. “I put more time in on my snowboard on the halfpipe, and also just going into it to have fun and not putting too much pressure on myself.

“I need to get a couple more banger tricks,” he added, “a couple more spins, a couple bigger tricks. Then I think we’ll be pretty ready to go.”

Ferguson’s 89.75 was the top American score of the day.

Ferguson’s performance was well behind the 95.25 posted by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano on his second run. The 5-foot-4-inch 2014 Sochi Olympic halfpipe silver medalist ran away with the Grand Prix title on that second run, though he also posted a first run of 90.50 that would have been good enough for first place.

Ferguson held onto the second place spot despite a riveting final run by Olympic veteran Shaun White, who at 31 has his eyes on qualifying for his fourth Winter Olympics.

The 2006 and 2010 Olympic halfpipe gold medalist strung together a backside air, a front double 14, a cab double 1080, a front stale 5 and a double McTwist 1260 on that third run. It was one he and others in attendance at Copper felt may have warranted a better score.

“I honestly just was using this contest as practice, you know,” White said. “Obviously, I wanted to, I think, post a better score for the Americans. I was putting in my first kind of easier runs to just put in a great score, lock it in and that allowed me to then go for my second and third run a little harder. I’m a little disappointed in my score for the third run. I really thought I was gonna bump up at least doing a 14 and a double 10 and a double 12. I don’t know. I’m a little confused right now, but that’s why we do these events.”

White’s showing came after he crashed in October while training in New Zealand, which forced him to miss a month of training.

Hirano’s countrymate Raibu Katayama secured fourth position with an 84.75 on his final run. That score bumped back four Americans into fifth through eighth place, respectively — Danny Davis (83.25), Ben Ferguson’s younger brother Gabe (79.00), Chase Josey (77.25) and Gregory Bretz (72.50). American and 2010 Olympian Louie Vito (33.00) rounded out the finalists in 10th place while Australia’s Scotty James, who topped his competition after qualifiers, finished in ninth (38.75).

American women sweep

As it’s an Olympic year, American snowboarder Kelly Clark said big progressions in the level of riding should be expected. At the Woodward superpipe at Copper Mountain Resort on Saturday, Clark and her American teammates didn’t disappoint, as she was joined on the podium by champion Chloe Kim and second place finisher Maddie Mastro.

Despite a flatter-pitched halfpipe at Copper than other world cup and Olympic qualifying events, Kim achieved remarkable raw amplitude on her first run of the day, piecing together an air, a front 10, a cab 7, a front 5 McTwist to earn a score of 93.75 for the title.

“I’m totally speechless,” Kim said. “I woke up and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so nervous. I’m going to puke.’ But, you know, I think the halfpipe kind of makes me feel at home and all the nerves go away when I’m dropping in and I’m just excited to try new stuff.”

Mastro entered the day with the high score from the qualification round, which meant she had one final chance to best her teammate Kim on the final run of the day.

Mastro put together a remarkable run, bumping her best score of the day up into the nineties. But the 90.75 wasn’t good enough to overtake Kim. It came on a final run that featured a front 9 Indy, a back 5 grab, a front 7 Hawkin (flip) and a front 5 seatbelt.

Clark described this week of qualifying and finals at Copper — one which featured five American women score in the top eight and 16 American women take part in total — as a “zero to 100 type of week.” Though there wasn’t much practice, the veteran Clark considered it a job well done for the Americans, as she took third place with a score of 83.75 via a run that consisted of a frontside air, a backside 5, a frontside 10, a cab 7, a crippler 5 and a backside air.

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