‘I’m on a cloud’
High winds make event a challenge, but Blouin lands the silver
Before the women’s snowboard slopestyle final had even begun Monday, high winds had blown it all over the place. The weather at Phoenix Snow Park forced the cancellation of qualifying runs Sunday, and then with the gusts still howling a day later, the start was delayed. The conclusion seemed obvious in a sport in which the competitors often weigh less than 100 pounds and wear enough baggy clothing to do a fine impression of a sail: They wouldn’t actually go through with this, would they?
They would. And then the final began, and the first rider down the course, Sarka Pancochova of the Czech Republic, promptly took big air off a jump and landed more or less on her head.
It was chaos. Some riders were buffeted by strong gusts, sending them soaring in the air, where they would flap their arms in the universal signal for I Am Totally Out of Control, while other winds pushed the riders down so they would crash into the ground with an aerial trick half completed. It was the rare time a snowboard event felt like a war of attrition: point the board downhill, and hold on for dear life.
With the crashes piling up, it was Canada’s Laurie Blouin, who had been stretchered off the course three days earlier after a fall during a training run, who pulled off a clean second ride for a silver, the sixth for Canada at Pyeongchang 2018 and the fourth in the past two days on Phoenix mountain. American Jamie Anderson defended her gold medal in the same event at Sochi with a clean first run, and Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi took bronze. Not one competitor of the 26 in the field managed two runs without some kind of wipeout.
“I’m on a cloud,” said Blouin, 21, after the silver-medal performance. She caught one of those big gusts on her first run, landing way down the jump and losing her balance on landing, so she scaled back her second run after seeing the carnage on the hill ahead of her.
“At first I was like, yeah, we’re in finals, might as well send it, but then I was like, ‘OK, a lot of girls are falling. I should go safe,’ and that’s what I did.”
Blouin, from Stoneham-etTewkesbury north of Quebec City, was sporting a nasty bruise and cut under her left eye, the result of her goggles smashing into her face when she took the spill during training. In accented English, she said she never doubted that she’d be ready to ride.
“I’m really stubborn, is that how you say it? If I want to compete, I’m going to compete,” Blouin said.
But the competition wasn’t without controversy. Many riders said the it shouldn’t have been held at all. Austria’s Anna Gasser said the event was turned into a lottery. Canada’s Spencer O’Brien added that “90 per cent of the women did not want to ride today.”
Silver medallist Laurie Blouin of Canada, left, and gold medallist Jamie Anderson of the U.S. are happy to be on the podium after the women’s slopestyle event at the Phoenix Snow Park on Monday. Unpredictable, strong winds made the final a war of attrition.