It’s officially the weekend here at X Games Aspen 2019 and five chances for world-class athletes to receive X Games Gold hit the base of Buttermilk Mountain on Saturday (January 26).
Over 43,000 spectators got to see events from Jeep Snowboard Slopestyle, Ski Big Air, So-Fi Women’s Snowboard SuperPipe and the first-ever Wendy’s Knuckle Huck to the inaugural Adaptive and Para Snow BikeCross races, along with two performances at the GEICO music stage from production duo Louis the Child and Grammy Award-winners, The Chainsmokers.
After surprising the crowd with a silver medal in Big Air on Thursday, X Games rookie Zoi Sadowski-Synnott wasn’t satisfied with her debut. The 17-year-old opened the day’s competitions by adding Jeep Snowboard Slopestyle gold to her 2019 medal count, beating silver medalist Hailey Langland by nearly 20 points. Becoming the first-ever snowboard athlete from New Zealand to win gold at X Games, Sadowski-Synnott’s run included a switch backside 900 and a double backflip. Enni Rukajarvi rounded out the podium with bronze.
This was the first time Hailey Langland competed since her injury in 2018 and Yung Hails did what she does best — stomp a medal-worthy run.
“I keep forgetting that I’m coming back from an injury so today the only thing I wanted to do was have fun and get some old tricks back on a course that I really liked,” Langland said at the base of the Slopestyle course. “I had the best practice I’ve had in a long time and I landed both in my first two runs in the contest, and I was just so overjoyed. I mean, we’re at X Games, you can’t really leave anything behind.”
In the debut of Adaptive Snow BikeCross, X Games veteran Mike Schultz effortlessly took home his ninth gold medal. Competing in his fourth unique sport at X Games, Schultz finished nearly 23 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
“Adaptive sports have been a huge part of XGames. This has been the fourth adaptive event I’ve been able to compete in but getting on the Snow Bike, something totally new this year for me and the adaptive side and to see how well everybody rides is super awesome,” Shultz told the crowd.
Tyler Brandenburger finished in second and Kevin Royston finished in third.
Also in its inaugural year, Para Snow BikeCross saw another X Games veteran, Doug Henry, medal in his third X Games discipline. Second place finisher Will Posey took home X Games silver, while Leighton Lillie finished in third place.
“Having this exposure for adaptive athletes it allows us to showcase what we love to do and what we can still do,” Henry said. “Having X Games is really important to adaptive racing. I know X Games is a huge part of it and without them we wouldn’t be getting recognized.”
In Wendy’s Snow BikeCross, reigning Aspen 2018 gold medalist, Cody Matechuk again bested the field for back-to-back gold. The Canadian finished more than four seconds ahead of silver medalist Jesse Kirchmeyer, while Brock Hoyer took bronze.
“That was a hard one. We had to work for that one,” Matechuk shared after hearing he won gold. “The field is growing every year. Everyone’s getting quicker and I think from here it’s just going to get closer and closer racing.”
After settling for Snowboard Slopestyle bronze in 2018, Mark McMorris stomped a nearly perfect run to return to the top of the podium. Earning his second medal of the weekend after Big Air silver, McMorris’ gold brought his medal count to 17, tying him for the second-most medals among winter X Games athletes.
“Today is my sixth day snowboarding this year and I haven’t really done any of these tricks for plenty and plenty of months. It feels like a dream come true,” McMorris said after being crowned the winner. “I didn’t know if I’d win another X Games Gold…it’s just a super intense, progressive sport; it’s hard to stay with the curve.”
After a clean rail section, McMorris landed a switch backside 1260, frontside triple cork 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1620 to knock Rene Rinnekangas out of first place.
Rinnekangas earned his first X Games medal with a silver. An alternate just before competition, Mons Roisland’s first run score held up for the bronze medal.
In the first-ever Wendy’s Snowboard Knuckle Huck, Norwegian Fridtjof Saether Tischendorf lived up to his reputation for wildly creative tricks and took home the coveted Golden Knuckles. Snowboard Knuckle Huck consisted of a 20-minute jam session where riders perform their maneuvers leaving the knuckle of the feature and finish in the landing area, truly celebrating the rider’s style.
In the only Ski competition of the day, the surprise X Games Norway 2018 Ski Big Air gold medalist Birk Ruud proved that he is a true Big Air podium threat by defending his gold against a stacked field. With a combined score of 89.00, Ruud bested Canadian Alex Beaulieu-Marchand and Brit James Woods. Marchand took the highest run score of the night with a 47.00, but it was not enough to beat Ruud. He landed a rightside double cork 1620 with two different grabs and switch leftside triple cork.
Before kicking off the fan-favorite SoFi Women’s Snowboard SuperPipe, the legendary snowboarder Kelly Clark took her final run in the X Games SuperPipe as she announced her retirement from professional snowboarding. Clark was the first woman to land a 1080 at Winter X Games in 2011 and boasts a total of 78 victories and 137 trips onto the podium over the course of her career.
Following in the footsteps of her childhood hero, Kelly Clark, teenage phenom Chloe Kim earned her third consecutive gold medal in the SoFi Women’s Snowboard SuperPipe competition. Continuing her impressive streak at X Games, Kim earned her seventh medal in seven appearances.
Though Spanish rider Queralt Castellet took an early lead with an 80.00 on her first run, Chloe bested her with an 84.00 in her second run that held up. Castellet becomes the first Spanish athlete to medal at an X Games winter event, while Chinese rider Cai Xuetong earned her third medal with a bronze.
Tomorrow might be the last day of X Games Aspen, but its poised to be one of the best. Jeep Men’s Ski Slopestyle, Harley-Davidson Snow Hill Climb, Monster Energy Men’s SuperPipe and Snow Bike Best Trick will all hit the base of Buttermilk Mountain, while Norweigian-born producer, songwriter, DJ and multi-instrumentalist Kygo will close out the weekend on the GEICO Music Stage.
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