‘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.

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