The weather didn't let up, but neither did David Wise.
On Tuesday, the 23-year-old American double-corked his way to the first-ever Olympic gold medal in halfpipe skiing as hundreds of flag-bearing spectators looked on. Close behind Wise, Canadian Mike Riddle earned silver as Frenchman Kevin Rolland rounded out the podium with the bronze on the historic evening in Sochi, Russia.
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Blinding snow made it difficult to see the top of the pipe, much less jump out of it, but 12 competitors from five different nations didn't let that slow their sport's debut. Instead, they adapted on the fly--something that has become the M.O. for slopestyle and halfpipe skiing and snowboarding these Games--altering their runs to fit the conditions. Wise led the charge with a pair of signature doubles, sticking his first run before clipping the deck on his second go-around. Riddle also landed two doubles, but was unable to top Wise's 92.00, scoring just lower with a 90.60.
For Wise, Olympic gold is just another chapter in his quickly growing legacy. While it's a little early to say he's the best the sport has ever seen, adding Sochi gold to three straight X Games wins and a 2013 World Championship has the Reno, Nevada, native firmly planted in halfpipe lore.
Justin Dorey, the highest scorer in qualifying, represented the last chance to dethrone halfpipe's newest king, but when he fell on his third hit, Wise threw his hands up and the crowd erupted. Cheered on by his wife and two sisters, Wise dedicated his winning run to his 2-year-old daughter.
Not to be overshadowed by Wise's success, Riddle rose to the big occasion, finding his best finish on the big stage since his 2011 World Championship gold. Still without an X Games medal, the Canadian skier now has an Olympic silver for his efforts.
In the sport's Olympic debut, judges spent considerable time poring over replays before releasing scores, building anticipation in the snowy confines of Sochi's Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. For the most part, judging was spot on, though American Aaron Blunck's second-round score roused the social media savvy--including halfpipe royalty turned cheerleader Simon Dumont.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>Judges, maybe you should at least bring <a href=”https://twitter.com/Aaron_Blunck”>@Aaron_Blunck</a> to dinner, before you F*** him.</p>— Simon Dumont (@SimonDumont06) <a href=”https://twitter.com/SimonDumont06/statuses/435837727972397056″>February 18, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Also worth noting were New Zealand's Wells brothers, Jossi and Beau-James, who earned fourth and sixth, respectively. The pair, along with brother Byron (halfpipe skier scratched due to injury), is one of two major family trios skiing in the Games. Canada's Dufour-Lapointe sisters--Maxime, Chloe, and Justine--competed in freestyle moguls (Justine and Chloe won gold and silver last week).
Still, this night belonged to Wise, Riddle, and Rolland. And so the first Olympic halfpipe skiing event is in the books, a predictable podium on a very unpredictable night.
The women take over the stunt ditch on Thursday, with women's halfpipe skiing qualifying at 5:45 a.m. Sochi time, followed by finals at 9:30 a.m., airing live on nbcolympics.com.
MEN'S SKI HALFPIPE FINAL RESULTS
1. David Wise (USA)
2. Mike Riddle (CAN)
3. Kevin Rolland (FRA)
4. Josiah Wells (NZL)
5. Noah Bowman (CAN)
6. Beau-James Wells (NZL)
7. Aaron Blunck (USA)
8. Antti-Jussi Kemppainen (FIN)
9. Lyndon Sheehan (NZL)
10. Benoit Valentin (FRA)
11. Thomas Krief (FRA)
12. Justin Dorey (CAN)
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