On a slightly overcast, slushy day, when the media coverage of Sochi was dominated by stories about the halfpipe not being up to scratch, the omens were possibly not the best for the British riders, Ben Kilner and Dom Harington.
Both were stoked to qualify for the Olympics and have played an active part in supporting their team-mates over the past few days. That love was returned as they lined up to drop in in heat one of the pipe, with Jenny Jones, Rowan Cheshire and Emma Lonsdale all turning out to watch, and wave union jacks in the approved fashion.
But unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, and despite both riding really well, neither of the boys put down a run that’d make it to the semi-finals. Ben landed his first run but put a hand down and knew he had to do better on his second.
“I was trying to up my amplitude in order to make sure I did qualify if I landed my run" he said. “But yeah, it just got the better of me. As I took off on my 1080 I could kind of feel myself coming away from the wall. I was like “please, please, please" but it didn’t happen. I didn’t realize I was gonna land quite as flat but maybe it’s because I was trying to go a bit bigger than usual."
While he wasn't blaming his performance on the pipe, reading between the lines the less than perfect conditions did have a part to play. He said: "On my first run I only just managed to kindof keep it together and you know, conditions are bumpy, it’s a little bit sketchy, so you know it was quite tricky just to hold on."
As I took off on my 1080 I could kind of feel myself coming away from the wall. I was like “please, please, please" but it didn’t happen.
Ben said he was “gutted, to say the least" not to improve on his performance from Vancouver four years ago. But he said he’d loved the experience of these Games overall. “Ah it was super cool. Up the top I had Billy, Murray, Jamie. When I was dropping in it was awesome. Last time I was kind of on my own but this time it felt like my family’s been here."
Dom’s family actually had come out to watch him ride, with his sister, brother-in-law, two little nephews, girlfriend and a couple of mates from school giving him vocal support. Unfortunately on his first run he fell on his first hit. “I don’t know what happened!" he said. “I’ve done about a million front 7s. I just didn’t hold onto it for whatever reason. I wasn’t that nervous, but my legs were just like jelly."
On his second run he was absolutely killing it, going big and landing clean. As he rode away from each hit the crew in the Brit pit got more and more excited – had he landed the run, which included a cab double cork, we reckoned he’d have made it through to the semis. But agonisingly close to the end he went over the nose of his board.
“It all felt good, the cab double felt perfect. So I was stoked, and then the front 10, I think I missed my grab which I do quite a lot, but I felt like I landed OK, and then suddenly just hit a bump and fell over. It was weird, it was quite a weird fall."
“It all felt good, the cab double felt perfect. So I was stoked, and then the front 10, I felt like I landed OK, and then suddenly just hit a bump and fell over.
Watching the replays it looked like Dom landed the trick fine, and then hit a lump as he lined up for the next hit. If he like Ben was a victim of the pipe that almost no-one was stoked on, then both can take comfort in the fact that they weren't the only ones – Ryo Aono and Janne Korpi, both potential medal contenders, also went out in the same heat. Meanwhile in the semi-finals and even the final there were a lot of people who stacked both their runs, amongst them Arthur Longo and Danny Davis.
And while both Ben and Dom them might have been unhappy to go out at such an early stage, we felt like the boys did us proud. Simply seeing their faces grinning down from the big Sochi 2014 screen at the top of the pipe, and their names flash up in Cyrillic script made us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
As Dom said: “It’s been amazing. I can’t believe it’s done, I don’t want it to be over! Well actually it’s not over yet, cos I’m gonna go and watch all the events and then just ride the mountain. Go and ride powder. I’ve got a two week snowboard holiday now, I’ve got free food, free lift pass…" Get on and enjoy it Dom, you’ve earned it.