words: T. Bird
photos: Sami Tourinemi
While the Burton European Open in Laax, Switzerland certainly offers some of the most breathtaking views in recent contest memory, snow and inclement weather hampered said vistas throughout the halfpipe finals, veiling the usually surreal panoramas of the Swiss Alps. However, the weather wasn't enough to shake up the men's and women's podium in any particular fashion, as the top three in both fields were pretty much who you would expect after the event was said and done.
The women went first and their elimination round cut them down from a field of sixteen to six, a harsh cut by any measure. However, with such a small field, the contest ran quick and allowed the girls to have three runs rather than the slopestyle competitors who were in a two-run final the day before due to the weather not allowing them to have their elimination round.
The six women were Holly Crawford, Mirabelle Thovex, Nadja Purtschert, Queralt Castellet, Kelly Clark and Chloe Kim. While Holly and Mirabelle both put down solid runs, it wasn't enough to get them into the top three, but one of the big stories of the day was first place qualifier Queralt Castellet doing exactly what she is sometimes known to do by qualifying in the top spot and then failing to put down a run even good enough for the podium. Queralt didn't look like herself in the women's pipe final, as she was struggling with frontside airs and backside nines throughout her short, three-run tenure in the pipe. The women's pipe final was all about Kelly Clark and Chloe Kim. The biggest storyline was that just one week earlier, Chloe became the youngest X Games gold medalist in history at fourteen years and nine months old, by flat out beating Kelly for her first taste of gold hardware. Kelly, in essence, has created her own worst enemy in Chloe, and it's going to be fun to watch her and Kelly battle it out for years to come. However, today wasn't Chloe's day as Kelly vindicated her loss by beating Chloe with sheer amplitude. Maybe it was the fresh snow in the pipe, but Kelly was out-airing the entire women's field, Chloe included. Although Chloe's run was far more technical, Kelly's was simply bigger, and for that she became the 2015 Burton European Open women's halfpipe champion. In the meanwhile, as Chloe and Kelly fought tooth and nail for the first two spots, Queralt's failure to podium opened the door for local rider Nadja Purtschert to sneak in and steal her first-ever podium appearance at the BEO.
As for the men, it wasn't quite as cut and dry. With ten riders in the field, there were battles being fought all day long between riders, starting with Frenchman Arthur Longo and Swiss rider David Habluetzel. Arthur came out swinging on his first run and was going bigger than anyone I had seen in the pipe all afternoon, and he nabbed the third place spot early in the event, as riders like Seamus O'Connor, Tim-Kevin Ravnjak, Christian Haller and Jan Scherrer couldn't catch up. That is, until Swiss Dave dropped in full speed and tried to go bigger than Arthur. Although I believe he failed in that aspect, he did put down an insane run that bumped Arthur out of top three contention. But it was Arthur's third and final run that seemed to have caused a bit of a controversy in scoring. Many people thought Arthur should've been on the podium with a massive run that ended with the biggest air-to-fakie into a switch alley-oop double backside rodeo. It really was psycho. However, the judges made their call and David's run was unreal, so that was that.
The top two contenders were going punch for punch, however: young Japanese rider Ayumu Hirano and local favorite Iouri Podladtchikov. Iouri came out and dropped a first run score that put him in the 90-range and he was the only guy to do so all afternoon, despite Ayumu's efforts. Iouri just seems to be head and shoulders above the field at halfpipe events that Danny Davis doesn't attend and when judges reward double corks over switch straight airs, the men's halfpipe final was Iouri's to lose, and that simply didn't happen.
The Burton European Open presented by MINI is a wrap and what a week it was in Laax. Make sure to stay tuned in to Snowboarder.com for all the action from the next stop in the Burton Global Open Series, the US Open in Vail, Colorado from March 3-7, 2014.
First – Iouri Podladtchikov
Second – Ayumu Hirano
Third – David Habluetzel
First – Kelly Clark
Second – Chloe Kim
Third – Nadja Purtschert