The first medal event of the Winter Games NZ FIS Park & Pipe Junior World Championships presented by La Roche Posay and Cardrona went down today on Big Bucks slopestyle course.
It was a hugely successful day with four new Junior World Champion Slopestyle titles awarded. The thrilling day started with the snowboard finals for the women and men who had qualified through on Monday.
16-year-old snowboarder Lucia Georgalli became the first New Zealander to ever win a snowboard Junior World Championship title, claiming the gold medal today.
Georgalli said, “It feels amazing, pretty cool to get my runs down and I am so stoked. I didn’t know if I was going to do a chill second run or step up my run, but I decided to go for a new competition run and I landed it.”
She took a convincing lead with her first run, which remained the top scoring run throughout the finals, until she topped her own score. Dropping into her second run Georgalli knew she had secured the title, but rather than taking a victory lap she showed her competitive mindset and upped her run. She scored a 91.00, putting her over 10 points ahead of her nearest competitor.
Her run consisted of technical switch rail tricks in the top section, then a solid jump section that included three different 720 rotations, scoring highly on the variety and difficulty scale.
Fanny Chiesa Piantanida of Italy claimed the silver medal and Ally Hickman of Australia rounded out the podium in third.
The men’s snowboard finals field was incredibly strong and included the current Big Air and Halfpipe overall world champions, Taiga Hasegawa of Japan and Chaeun Lee of Korea. It was a tightly fought battle, with constant reshuffling of the leader as the athletes pushed themselves and each other to the max.
17-year-old Hasegawa secured the lead on this final run, claiming the only score in the 90s for the snowboard men today. An ecstatic Hasegawa said, “I am so happy to get first place. The course was so sick, crazy course and thank you so much to Cardrona parks.”
Cameron Spalding of Canada fought hard and joined Hasegawa on the podium in second position. The judges explained the Hasegawa’s amplitude on his final two runs set him apart from the rest. Hasegawa’s fellow Japanese rider Yuto Miyamura rounded out the podium in third.
Gaz Vogan, Head Snowboard Judge, explained; “The standard of riding at the snowboard slopestyle finals today was incredible, with a much higher level compared to the last Junior World Champs. It’s been really good to see that progression in the sport. The riders definitely didn’t make our job easy today, but it was a really enjoyable contest to be a part of.
After an exciting morning, the action continued with the Freeski Slopestyle Junior World Championship finals in the afternoon.
The women’s final was a nail biter, with many athletes leaving it to the second run to show the judges what they were capable of. Muriel Mohr of Germany took the win with her blinder of a second run being rewarded highly by the judges.
Mohr dropped into her second and final run in bronze medal position, with the intention to shake up the podium. She upped the technicality of her rails and included a K-Fed on the second rail feature. A switch bio 900 and a right side 720 with her grabs locked in catapulted the 16-year-old German into first.
Mohr, who was nearly speechless with emotion after her winning run, was struggling to comprehend what she had just achieved. She was joined on the podium by top seed qualifier Flora Tabanelli of Italy and Mischa Thomas of New Zealand.
This was Thomas’ first FIS event, and she was over the moon with her results; “My day went really well, I am really happy with how I skied. Coming third means a lot at the Junior World Champs, the feeling is indescribable. The support from the Kiwi’s has been amazing.”
The Freeski men also saved the best to last, with top qualifier Charlie Beatty (16-years-old) the final athlete to drop into the course today. After crashing his first run he knew it was all on the line, but he remained composed, lacing together a super technical run and leapfrogging into gold medal position.
Beatty’s winning run included a left side 450 on, pretzel 270 out of the second rail feature and a huge switch right double cork 1440 on the final jump.
Beatty said, “It feels pretty unreal, I am super stoked to have put that run down today. It sets me up well for the upcoming Northern Hemisphere season, I am hoping to carry this momentum into the season and go out there, do my thing and have fun.”
Fadri Rhyner of Switzerland claimed the silver medal, with Leo Landroe of Norway finishing in bronze medal position.
Freeski judge Victoria Beattie described just how high the level of competition was today and how impressed the judges were with all the skiers.
Winter Games NZ continues tomorrow back over the Crown Range at Coronet Peak with the FIS ANC Slalom race set to be held on the Pro Am slope.