Wow, what a day for British snowboarding. You may have been following our live tweets or the FIS Live Score updates, but in case you weren’t here’s what you need to know.
The GB Slopestyle Team, all of whom are hoping to qualify for the Sochi 2014 Olympics, did well. Very well.
In fact, when the dust settled and the sun set on yet another bitterly cold day in Quebec, there were two British women in the top ten in the world (this is after all, technically the “Snowboard World Championships”) and two British men in the top 20. One of whom, Billy Morgan, finished 4th.
Not bad for a small island with bugger all snow (current conditions notwithstanding) and no serious mountains to speak of.
The women were in action first yesterday, with their qualification having been bumped from the previous day’s schedule because of high winds early on.
The field was strong. Spencer O’Brien (the reigning WST World Champion) Sina Candrian, and Torah Bright, who’s decided to try her hand at slopestyle as well as halfpipe in Sochi, were all on the start list.
Of course the British team has its very own slopestyle superstar in Jenny Jones, and her first qualifying run showed why she has regularly beaten the best in the world on big occasions over the past few years.
Her score of 88.66, helped by some seriously steezy moves on the rails, was enough to put her straight through to the finals. But while Jenny might be expected to qualify at a comp like this, no-one expected the other Brit in the field, 15-year-old Katie Ormerod, to do as well as she did.
Riding with a maturity that belied her years, Katie put down a solid first run, with a tweaked out indy tailbone, and a stylish back three. And then on her second run she very nearly landed an enormous back seven!
Although she couldn’t quite hold onto the landing, her first score was enough to see her finish in 10th – an incredible result for the youngster!
Both Jamie Nicholls and Billy Morgan had qualified through to finals without too much trouble the day before, and were looking good when the men started practising. But then so were Mark McMorris, Janne Korpi, Sven Thorgren, Roope Tonteri and in fact pretty much everyone else.
Jamie unfortunately didn’t manage to land his cab 10 off the third kicker on either of his runs, despite the fact that, as he explained: “I’ve been landing it all week”.
But although he may have been frustrated, his 14th place finish was still enough to earn him the FIS qualification points he’d come to Quebec to get. Result. Especially on a course that was icy and tricky to ride.
The trickiness of the course nearly did for Billy completely. Normally, the man is like a cat – you can throw him (or he can throw himself) off anything and he’ll land on his feet. But on the first kicker, his instincts deserted him and he took a nasty-looking bail, landing heavily on his wrist.
Weirdly, Chas Guldemond, who’s usually the definition of solid, and Sage Kotsenberg also fell on the first hit. That wasn’t much consolation to Billy though, he was clearly pretty shaken up by it and in a fair bit of pain. But he psyched himself up again while he was having his wrist strapped and decided to ride anyway. Like a boss!
He dropped in the second time and stomped a simplified version of his run. Simplified meaning just a massive back rodeo on the first kicker instead of a double back rodeo. “I reckon that’s about an 80 flat” said, Hamish McKnight, the GB Freestyle coach. The judges though, disagreed, giving Billy 85.25. He was in second place!
Mark McMorris was still in first with a 92, and there were several riders left to drop, not least Roope Tonteri. The young Finnish rock n’ roll star stomped the shit out of his run to bump McMorris down into 2nd place and Billy into third.
With hearts in mouths we watched the last few riders drop. McMorris (much to his annoyance) couldn’t improve on his first run second time around. Chas Guldemond also couldn’t beat Billy’s score. With only two riders to go, Billy was still sitting in a podium place.
Unfortunately (well, not for the Finn but for us Brits watching) Janne Korpi already had a run on the board. He could afford to cut loose on his second, and cut loose he did, stomping a combo that beat Billy’s score.
But while it might have seemed for a second that Billy had been unfairly bumped down to fourth, reality soon struck – hang on, Billy had finished fourth? In a field that included most of the world’s best slopestyle riders? With a run that wasn’t his best? With a smashed-up wrist? Incredible.
As Billy himself said, staring disbelievingly at the floor as he cradled his well-earned post-comp pint: “Wow. I’m fourth in the world at something.” Yes mate, yes you are.