Showing the depth of the international field, Cilka Sadar (18) of Slovenia and Taku Hiraoka (14) of Japan were today crowned Junior Snowboard Halfpipe World Champions in an exciting day of competition at Cardrona ski resort that also saw host New Zealand earn its first medal of the Championships.
The day started with an all-star line up with the forerunners, which included Olympic gold medallist, Kelly Clark (USA) and New Zealand Olympian Juliane Bray.
The men’s semi finals saw Australia’s Nathan Johnstone (20) take the top finals qualifying spot with a spectacularly solid run with huge amplitude, despite the windy conditions. He was closely followed by Manuel Pietropoli (20) of Italy and New Zealand’s Ben Stewart (18).
In the finals Hiraoka once again stole the day, scoring a massive 44.2 with a frontside air, backside 5, frontside 7, cab 10 and frontside 5, all with huge amplitude, over 12 feet above the pipe edge. “It’s amazing to be world champion,” he said. “It’s really important for my future in halfpipe – I’m so happy.”
Johnstone continued his consistently high level of riding with second place with a score of 42.2 while Manuel Pietropoli took bronze. Kiwi snowboarder Ben Stewart finished in ninth place.
The women’s semi finals saw New Zealander Rebecca Sinclair (18) score the highest qualifying run in the first run. However, by the second run, she dropped to third but still secured a place in the finals along with highest qualifier Haruna Matsuoto (17) and Palmer Taylor (17). In the finals it was Cilka Sadar who dominated with a solid backside 5, frontside 5, backside air, frontside 7, cab 3 finishing with an alleyoop scoring 37.8. Sinclair’s second run put her into the silver position with 31.7, landing a crippler 7 (inverted 720 spin), a result she was stoked with given her recent injury woes.
“I wasn’t even expecting to be able to compete with my injured ankle,” she said. “But it’s all strapped up – I’ve been struggling with landing the crippler all week and I’m stoked I pulled it off in my second run. It’s a real privilege to have the Junior World Championships here in New Zealand and great preparation for my next goal which is the World Championships in Spain in January 2011.”
Haruna Matsumoto (17) of Japan rounded out the podium with a score of 31.4.
Head judge, Ola Sundequist, said the level of riding was extremely high. “We were quite worried about the wind earlier on in the morning and that we wouldn’t see the riders get much height out of the pipe. However, they ended up going very big and while some were affected by gusts, most landed fine resulting in some good scores. Taku’s run was incredible, everything was so smooth.”
The snowboard action moves to Snow Park tomorrow for the Parallel Giant Slalom event with qualification starting at 9:00 a.m. and finals scheduled for 12:00 p.m.