Freestyle stars dazzle at sunny Shougang

2023-12-01 09:35:55China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Reigning Olympic slopestyle champion Alexander Hall of the United States performs tricks during the qualification runs at the Big Air World Cup's Beijing leg on Thursday. (WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY)

The Big Air World Cup's Beijing leg began in style on Thursday as an elite field of skiers savored the chance to perform in ideal conditions on the iconic Olympic slope at Shougang park.

Amid sunshine and clear blue skies, Chinese teenager Liu Mengting stole the show during the qualification round as the Shougang Big Air venue made its return to international competition for the first time since Beijing 2022. As well as the local interest, a strong field featuring multiple world champions and Olympic medalists whetted the appetite for Saturday's final.

Liu stomped all three of her runs to advance as one of the top eight qualifiers, becoming the second female Chinese freeskier after reigning Olympic champion Gu Ailing to reach a Big Air World Cup final.

Norway's Leo Landroe performs tricks during the qualification runs at the Big Air World Cup's Beijing leg on Thursday. (WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY)

"It's a dream come true for me to make the final at my first World Cup event. I am so excited and really looking forward to a better performance in the final," the 19-year-old Liu said after totaling 132 points with her second and third runs to finish seventh in the qualification round, which involved 12 competitors.

"I was kind of nervous but I enjoyed the challenge. I am so happy to land my first right 1080 trick in an official competition. Hopefully I can finish on the podium on Saturday," said Liu, who landed a right 1080-degree (three full rotations) jump with a safety grab in her third run.

The Big Air discipline involves skiers, or snowboarders, hurtling down a steep slope, taking off at the mid-section jump to perform high-flying flips, spins and grabs before landing on the end ramp.

Reigning Olympic champion Gu was China's only female freeskier consistently making World Cup finals in the buildup to the Beijing Games.

The rise of Liu and the younger generation builds on Gu's success and cements China's status as an emerging freestyle skiing nation.

Leading Thursday's qualifiers were Beijing 2022 medalists Tess Ledeux (silver) of France and Switzerland's Mathilde Gremaud (bronze). Another Swiss, Guilia Tanno, completed the top three.

Having triumphed at the season-opener in Chur, Switzerland last month, Gremaud expects to step it up in Saturday's final to maintain her winning momentum.

"It's amazing to be back in China. I feel better today after a few bad runs in practice and it will be good on Saturday," said the 23-year-old, who scored 156 points in qualification.

With the perfect weather conditions forecast to last in the capital through the weekend, Ledeux was savoring her return to the scene of her silver-medal success at Beijing 2022.

"I'm really happy to land all my runs during qualification and I feel comfortable for the final," said the Frenchwoman, who lost to China's Gu by a mere 0.75 points at the Olympics 21 months ago.

"To know the jump is very important for us because we can try and work on it a lot better. Here is really easy because there is no wind, there is some protection around the jump. The ski is always the same, it's really easy to ski here," she added.

The men also relished the ideal conditions at Shougang.

Swiss star Andri Ragettli, the all-time leading World Cup titlist, reigning Olympic slopestyle champion Alexander Hall of the US and Italian youngster Miro Tabanelli were among those to secure their places in Saturday's 10-man final.

Having won gold in slopestyle at Beijing 2022, Hall looks set to improve on his eighth-place finish in Big Air at the Olympics and potentially land on the podium on Saturday.

"The first practice was a little icy and bumpy but the set-up was really good today. It's warm, so it was really nice. I'm looking forward to the final," said Hall, a 25-year-old who has won 10 medals overall on the World Cup circuit since 2018.

"We knew that we had to do some of our best tricks just to get into the final. So I think a lot of us were kind of just going for it and hoping we would land. Yeah it feels great to get in there and put on a show on Saturday."


Most popular in 24h

MoreTop news


Back to top About Us | Jobs | Contact Us | Privacy Policy
Copyright ©1999-2023 All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
[网上传播视听节目许可证(0106168)] [京ICP证040655号]
[京公网安备 11010202009201号] [京ICP备05004340号-1]