Freeskiers save the best for last at Winter Games

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US skier Nick Goepper went big and bold to win the final competition of the Audi quattro Winter Games this morning (Sunday).

Goepper took down the men’s FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Slopestyle at Wanaka’s Cardrona skifield against the breathtaking backdrop of the Southern Alps.

“I’m just insanely happy to be here,” Goepper says.

“It’s really, really surreal and I didn’t even imagine this is how the day would go. I’m just happy to be down here in New Zealand. It’s one of my favourite places to be.”

James ‘Woodsy’ Woods of Great Britain led the men’s comp until the very last run with his stellar first run score of 92.00.

But the pride of Sheffield was trumped by Goepper, last season’s number one slopestyle skier on the AFP World Tour, who scored 94.00 with a spectacular run.

For snowboard aficionados, the run featured a switch 360 to 180 over the wall ride to transfer frontside switch up to back 270 out on the downrail, hand drag 3 over the rainbow rail, a right double cork 1080 mute over the first kicker into left double cork 1260 tail on the second and finishing with a switch rightside double cork 900 screamin’.

Asked about the current level of freeskiing at Winter Games NZ and on the world circuit Goepper added: “Today was ridiculous.

“You’ve got to be learning new tricks in your down time. It’s so consistent; every guy out there is so smooth and so technical; it’s tough!”

Woods managed to edge out Australia’s Russ Henshaw into bronze and reverse their final AFP slopestyle standings from last season in this, the first FIS World Cup of this year.

Norwegian teenager Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen impressed while winning the women’s slopestyle World Cup.

The 18-year-old – last season’s best overall freeskier on the AFP World Tour and second in slopestyle – landed a first run that scored 91.00.

It featured a slide over the wall ride to switch lipside onto the down rail, frontside 450 off the canon rail then into the kicker line with a left 540 mute, switch right 900 tail and right 900 tail.

Only six athletes contested the women’s final after Eveline Bhend (SUI) and Anna Vincenti (GBR) did not start.

Dara Howell from Canada and Germany’s Lisa Zimmermann took silver and bronze respectively with best scores of 84.40 and 72.00.

Head judge Greg Tuscher gave his personal take on today’s event and the future of freestyle skiing.

“Today was a great comp,” Tuscher says. “The level is really high now and it’s really tough to judge because the top guys make no mistakes.

“The level is going to keep getting higher and the judging is going to have to follow. We’re at the point where everyone, judges, athletes and coaches have to come together and talk about where we want to go with the sport and find a way of keeping the spirit.

“Maybe we can reward less spinning with better style, or better execution.”

With American freeskiers Maggie Voisin and Devin Logan finishing out of the medals today, Christiansen’s win meant that US women failed to achieve a grand slam of all ski and snowboard freestyle events at this year’s Games.

But head coach Mike Jankowski will go home happy after Nick Goepper’s men’s gold added to the women’s medals won by Devin Logan, Jamie Anderson and Kelly Clark at Cardrona over the past week.

The Winter Games NZ 2013 concludes later today with the official closing ceremony at 2pm at the Lotto Village on Ardmore Street, followed by the JUCY Meltdown Concert at the Lake Wanaka Centre when NZ band, Tahuna Breaks bring the Games to a close.

Tickets are still available from the Lotto Villages in both towns.

The Adventure Film Festival presented by Auckland Airport’s ends tonight with a ‘Best of the Fest’ special showing at the Lotto Village.