Dominating performance wins ski slopestyle for Turski

by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Kaya Turski turned in a performance so dominating  in the women’s ski slopestyle finals Thursday that the 21-year-old from Montreal could have won gold, silver and bronze.

Metaphysically speaking, that’s not exactly possible, but all three of Turski’s runs scored higher than anything thrown down by the rest of the field. She scored a 92 on her first, a 93 on the second and a 96 on what many were expecting to be a mellow victory lap.

Keri Herman, 27, of Breckenridge, collected a silver medal with a best-run score of 85 while Grete Eliassen or Salt Lake City and Norway took bronze with an 84.

Meghan Olenick of Aspen, younger sister of ski superpipe 2007 bronze medalist Peter Olenick, was in fourth place after her first run but she failed to complete the jumps on either of her final two runs. She ended the competition in fifth place.

One of the event’s highlights came from Sarah Burke, 27, of Whistler, British Columbia, who attempted a 1260 on the last hit of her final run. Burke, an X Games gold medalist in the superpipe known for her big air prowess, was building up to the big air throughout her three runs and attempted a 1080 on run number two. But she was unable to land either trick. Had she nailed the 1260, which is three and a half rotations, it’s believed it would have been the first time a female had nailed the move in competition.

Burke said she was actually attempting a 900 on the second run, which turned into an attempted 1080 when she over-rotated a bit. Knowing she had the 10, Burke decided to go all in for a 1260 on the last run. But she double-ejected on the botched landing,

“Like they say, go big or go home,” Burke said.

 Heather Rousseau/Aspen Daily News
Kaya Turski took the highest score in all of her three runs, placing first in the women’s ski slopestyle at the ESPN Winter X Games 14 on Thursday.

Turski rode smooth and clear on all three of her runs, each one consecutively better than the last. As she was the last competitor, she knew she had gold locked up going into her third run. She took nothing off, however, landing a 900 into a switch 720 on the final two hits.

“All along going into the competition I decided that if I had a good run, I would just keep trying to up it,” Turski said in the post-finals press conference. “On the last run I was happy with the last two runs and I decided just to go for it and throw a better trick. It ended up going really well for me.”

Turski claimed bronze in last year’s X Games women’s ski slopestyle, and said she pressured herself to do better this year.

“I can’t even describe what a gold medal means to me,” Turski said. “This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid and it’s absolutely unreal to have a gold medal hanging off my neck right now.”

This year’s slopestyle course is compact, with little down time in between features. The top section has four separate rail features, followed by three tabletop jumps in quick succession, the largest of which has a 68-foot transition.

In the women’s snowboard superpipe elimination round, Gretchen Bleiler, 28, of Aspen, came in second to rival and Olympic teammate Kelly Clark, 26, of Mount Snow, Vt. The field of six who will advance to Saturday’s final was rounded out by Elena Hight and Hannah Teter, who are Vancouver bound, Ellery Hollingsworth and Soko Yamaoka. There were 16 total riders in the elimination round.

Good weather held all day on Thursday after some rare fog burned off by 9 a.m. into a bluebird Colorado morning.

The crowd during the first day of Winter X was still light, with a strong contingent of family and friends cheering their loved ones on. That’s all bound to change as X Games heads into the weekend where as many as 30,000 people can show up at Buttermilk over one day.