Ski slopestyle throws up big air and unexpected glories
Lana Prusakova showed the best tricks and landings at the ladies' ski slopestyle competition at the Hafjell Freepark: 77.00 points meant gold for Russia. Silver went to France’s Lou Barin (72.80), and Great Britain’s Madison Rowlands won bronze (67.80).
Rowlands followed on from her gold in the ladies’ ski halfpipe event in Oslo. “I can’t believe I have two Youth Olympic medals now,” she said. “Not at all. I train for slopestyle, probably more than for the halfpipe. I get all the tricks on the trampolines and airbags before taking it to the jumps. It’s a bit scary when you do it for real, but you soon get used to it.”
As she prepared to make her final run, Rowlands was so relaxed she remained unaware of her third-place position on the leaderboard. Rather than pushing too hard, she focused on the run ahead. “It was good,” she said. “[At the top] I don’t really get nervous. I’ve always been like that, I’ve pretty much [always been fearless]. Even as a child, in general. That’s my attitude towards everything.”
Russia's Lana Prusakova in her gold-medal-winning turn at ladies' ski slopestyle at Hafjell Freepark. Photo: YIS / IOC Arnt Folvik
In the men’s event, Norwegian skier, Birk Ruud finished in first place (89.20), ahead of the USA’s Alexander Hall (87.40) and Finn Bilous (86.00) of New Zealand.
“It’s very special to have won this at home in my country,” Birk Ruud said. “It’s the best. Plus I have my family here.” Away from the slopes, the 15-year-old has been swapping team badges with his fellow athletes. His woolly hat is peppered with them. “I have the India one, which is pretty cool, and Jamaica,” he said. “Could I be the Usain Bolt of freestyle skiing? Yeah, I would like that to happen.”
Norway's Birk Ruud scored the gold in the men's ski slopestyle event. Photo: YIS / IOC Bob Martin
“It’s been super fun meeting a ton of other athletes our age [at the Winter YOG]. It’s been a good trip for skiing, but even more for the experience,” said silver medallist Alexander Hall.
Like the snowboard slopestyle competition, the Hafjell Freepark brought a party vibe to the Lillehammer YOG. Chief protagonist among the men’s riders was New Zealand’s Jackson Wells, brother of Olympian Josiah ‘Jossi’ Wells, who finished fourth in the men’s freeski halfpipe final at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
"We take this seriously when we're up top, but it's all about fun and hanging out together,” he said. “I've even been doing a bit of DJing on the bus up to the slope. “The driver asked me to turn it down the other day because I was playing Africa by Toto quite loud.”
Written by YIS/IOC Matt Allen and Nick Moore
Matt Allen is a reporter for the Lillehammer Youth Information Service ‘YIS’. Author of the international bestselling Usain Bolt autobiography Faster Than Lightning, Matt is a sports and music journalist whose articles have appeared in publications such as Total Sport, Esquire, Men’s Health, GQ and FourFourTwo.
Nick Moore is a reporter for the Lillehammer Youth Information Service ‘YIS’. A sports and music journalist with 20 years of experience, he covered the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. Based in the UK, he has written for numerous titles including FourFourTwo, The Independent, Q and The Times.