Quebec Olympic Qualifier – Halfpipe and Big Air

A classic Ben Kilner method. Stylish.

The FIS World Snowboard Championships (at least the freestyle events) wrapped up today in Quebec City with the halfpipe finals.

The UK’s representatives in the discipline, Ben Kilner and Dom Harington, put in impressive performances to gain valuable Olympic qualification points.

Unusually, Arthur Longo failed to qualify for the semis.

Dom has by his own admission “had a bit of a nightmare week”. He took a hard slam in practise on his first day of training and broke his wrist. But like an absolute lad he manned up and soldiered on riding in a cast.

Despite another nasty slam in practise yesterday (“I basically did a one and a half cork”) he stuck his first qualifying run clean and got points on the board.

He had a go at bettering his score with a second run, but unfortunately stacked meaning he was eliminated before the semi-final stage. Still that’s a damn impressive result for a man who’s been on morphine all week, and “can’t really do proper grabs” because of his cast!

Dom Harington kicking out the jams. That’s a broken wrist he’s grabbing with there…

Ben had more luck. A clean first run, which included his trademark tweaked frontside 10 was enough to get him through to the semi-finals. Stoked!

Yesterday evening saw the Big Air semis and finals go down slap bang in the middle of Quebec city. With Billy Morgan out after smashing his wrist (which, it turns out, is actually broken!) in slopestyle finals, the UK’s sole representative was Sam Turnbull.

Seppe Smits boosting off the Big Air. Check the setup, it’s sandwiched between two motorway flyovers, and illuminated by the bastard children of stadium floodlights and disco balls.

Having stomped a solid front nine on the seriously sketchy-looking setup to qualify for the semis, Sam then faced the daunting prospect of getting back up the ramp of sheet ice and dropping in in front of 20-odd thousand people in what was basically a blizzard.

Unfortunately he didn’t quite manage to land the trick and was out before the final but it was still a solid effort. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that they grow up in similarly icey conditions, the Big Air, like the slopestyle, was dominated by Scandis. Roope Tonteri took it with a back double 10 ahead of Niklas Mattson, with Belgium’s Seppe Smits coming in third.

Laying one out when someone’s watching is never easy, let alone 20,000 people. Backflip in the Big Air finals.

Feeling in need of some warmth after a cold session watching Sam, Whitelines and various members of the British team who had finished their events headed for a boites a chansons.

These bars are apparently a Quebec institution. The name literally means “box of songs”. Basically dudes with a guitars sing traditional Quebecois folk tunes. Think country or bluegrass, but sung in French, with the occasional English song (maybe a Johnny Cash cover or “Summer of 69” by Bryan Adams) thrown in.

It sounds bizarre, but when you’ve got a packed bar shouting along to every word, it’s pretty awesome. Especially when you add in the buxom barmaids and pitchers of local beer, and shots of sortilege, a whisky made of maple syrup. Check it out:

Having celebrated the successes of the past week in appropriate style, and made lots of lovely new friends, certain members of the British team (and Whitelines) were feeling a little worse for wear this morning.

Kildog cranking out a steezy-as-hell backside air first hit.

Thankfully, Ben Kilner wasn’t amongst them. His semi-final went well – the visibility wasn’t great but the pipe was in good shape and Ben’s first run, a relatively safe one, was clean.

Weirdly, despite the fact that his second run wasn’t as good (“he forgot his front 10!” said Hamish McKnight, the team GB coach) the judges gave it a higher score, earning him an extra four points. Both Hamish and Ben were surprised, but weren’t about to complain, as the result meant he finished in 16th place overall, a huge result as far as qualification for Sochi goes.

An unknown rider boosts a big mute tailbone first hit.

The pipe finals were won by Iouri Podlatchikov, whose typically masterful display saw him claim the title. “Claim” is the apposite word for I-Pod whose celebrations are never knowingly understated. It was a close-run thing though, with Japan’s Taku Hiraoka, Christian Haller and Markus Malin of Finland all running him close.

In the women’s event, gold was (appropriately enough) won by the young American Arielle Gold, who beat Australia’s Holly Crawford and Sophie Rodriguez of France.

Christian Haller does the “I’m a little teapot” actions mid-method.

The FIS Snowboard World Championships are far from over. Up at Stoneham, the boardercross course is being prepped and the hotels in Quebec City are now swarming with parallel giant slalom riders. Hard boots, 180cm-long boards and logo-covered jackets that look like F1 cars are everywhere.

But as the freestylers pack up to leave, and the British Freestyle Team prepares to head back to its training base in Breckenridge, they can reflect on a job well done. They came, they rode and they not only earned the qualification points they needed, but absolutely bossed it in the process.

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