By Jack Tarrant
PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) – Sochi champion Jamie Anderson of the United States battled challenging cross winds that had delayed the start of the final to win her second successive Olympic gold in the women’s snowboard slopestyle at the Pyeongchang Games on Monday.
The start of the final, which included all of the athletes after qualifying was canceled on Sunday because of poor weather, had been delayed due to the strong winds.
Only five riders made it down the first run without falling in the difficult conditions, which also included hard snow, with Anderson scoring 83.00 points to give her an almost 10-point advantage heading into the second run.
It was enough to hold off Canada’s Laurie Blouin, who took silver with 76.33 on her second run, and Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi, who added bronze to her silver from Sochi four years ago, with 75.38 points.
None of the riders were able to complete two error-free runs.
There was a particularly scary moment when Slovakia’s Klaudia Medlova landed flat on her back after missing a grab during her first run but she did complete her second and finished 24th.
Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi, number one in the FIS World Cup rankings, fell twice on her first run before also crashing out on the second run. Iwabuchi, one of the lightest riders on the tour, was just one example of the top riders struggling in the conditions.
Austrian Anna Gasser, who told reporters after the event that the wind conditions made the event “a lottery”, was another favorite who struggled and failed to land either of her runs.
Anderson said her experience allowed her to handle the conditions better than some of her younger competitors, who were struggling to reign in some of the jumps that went too big for them to handle in the windy conditions.
“It is about who can deal with their nerves best and deal with the conditions in the moment,” said 27-year-old Anderson after the final.
She agreed with her rivals that the events were hard but also said it was about adjusting to the conditions and putting together a run suited for the specific situation.
Anderson has spoken in the build-up to the Olympics about the youngest athletes pushing her to go harder and she reiterated that on Monday.
“There is a lot more competition compared to in Sochi. In Sochi I knew I was one of the best,” she said.
“For a lot of years I wasn’t progressing but now we are doing tricks I wasn’t doing before. I didn’t think a lot of those tricks were possible.”
Blouin, who was stretchered off the course in practice on Friday, completed an incredible comeback to clinch the silver medal.
“I caught an edge on the third jump and slammed my face. I then went to hospital to check my neck and I was cleared for practice,” said the Canadian, a big bruise clear underneath her left eye.
“Now I have second place and I don’t believe it. It is a dream come true.”
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)