By Mari Saito and Winni Zhou
ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) -American freestyle skiers Alex Hall and Nicholas Goepper dominated the slopestyle final to win gold and silver at the Beijing Games, throwing down inspired runs that stood out from the field.
Hall, who won the slopestyle contest at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix in January, led the pack from the start, earning a monster 90.01 score in his first run with a brand new trick that saw him stop a 1080 mid-air and rewind the last rotation by half a turn before planting the landing.
Afterwards, Hall leaned over the barrier at the finish, looking both exhausted and relieved by his high score.
“That last jump was definitely maybe my hardest trick,” the 23-year-old said, adding that he was “stoked” for landing it.
“Lot of us (in the sport) are what we call spin to win and are spinning as much as we can, so to take a new approach and do a trick that has almost no rotation that’s still really hard was really sweet,” he told reporters after the final with the American flag draped around his shoulders.
Fellow American Goepper, who won silver in the same event at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018 and bronze at Sochi in 2014, took silver after losing momentum in his third and final run and failing to best Hall.
But Goepper, whose best run scored 86.48, said he was happy to get on the podium with a run that felt unique to his skiing style.
The 27-year-old went his own way throughout the final, grinding on what he laughingly called the “shred shed” – a snowy replica of an ancient watch tower on the Great Wall-inspired course – and banking right on the last jump to hit a side take-off unlike any of his rivals.
“This felt good to do it how we wanted to,” Goepper said, commending teammate Hall for his creative take on the course.
Sweden’s Jesper Tjader, who took the bronze with his top score of 85.35, said he had been planning on landing a switch triple cork in the course for eight years and was “stoked” to successfully nail it in his first and best run on Wednesday.
“A lot of pieces came together today. It just worked out,” the Swede said.
Birk Ruud of Norway, who won a Big Air gold last week and had aimed to medal at all three of his events including the slopestyle, missed his landings and failed to podium.
Skiers competed under blue skies at the Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, where air temperatures dropped to -24.3 degrees Celsius (-11.74°F) ahead of the final.
(Reporting by Mari Saito and Winni Zhou; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Richard Pullin)