Words: T. Bird
Photos: Sami Touriniemi/OnBoard
In a country that has spawned some amazing halfpipe riders in its day, the 2014 Burton European Open pipe finals didn't disappoint under sunny skies up at the top of Laax, Switzerland. While I mentioned yesterday that some of the big names in snowboarding have opted out of participating in the BEO this year due to other Olympic qualification commitments, many of the world's younger, soon-to-be stars did in fact show up, and they proved to me that the future of competitive pipe riding will continue to push the envelope of what's possible inside a superpipe.
The women dropped first in the morning in front of hundreds of fans who crowded behind the banners lining the pipe. While there were six women who qualified for finals, one of them was Enni Rukajärvi, and as mentioned in the slopestyle recap yesterday, she was unable to compete in pipe today due to a cut suffered when she banged her leg into a rail during slope practice tomorrow. Enni says that it's sore, but she's pretty sure she'll be ready for the X Games in a few weeks as well as Sochi in early February.
The five girls who did compete today were impressive, however. They were Carla Somaini, Zoe Kalapos, Licile Lefevre, Verena Rohrer (younger sister of Fabienne Rohrer), and Ursina Haller (older sister of Christian Haller). Of the five women, three made it to the top of the podium, all from Switzerland. Carla Somaini stepped up after qualifying in the sixth spot coming into finals. Her run consisted of two straight airs to start off and then a frontside three, Cab three, alley oop McTwist, and a backside air. Second place went to Verena Rohrer as she landed a third run with a frontside air, backside five, frontside five, method air, and a frontside seven. However, the girl to beat today was the hometown hero Ursina Haller, and she took to the pipe like a woman scorned (although she's a super nice gal). Her first run gave her the lead and she never let up, as her final run came in at a massive 92.2 with a frontside nine, backside five, frontside five, method air, and a front seven tailgrab. Ursina took the win in front of her fans, and then the men took to the ditch to try their hand at impressing all onlookers.
The sixteen finalists consisted of a few names that I didn't recognize, however, they are names that I will now not forget, as the riding was incredibly impressive from all ten finalists. Michael Schärer, Janne Korpi, Kosuke Hosokawa, Tim-Kevin Ravnjak, Shuhei Osanai, Jake Pates, Ikkou Anai, Christian Haller, Markus Keller, and Iouri Podladtchikov battled it out for the top three spots. For me, the most entertaining part of the day was the young Japanese rider Iikou Anai who, judging by his blatant use of the middle finger toward the judges, didn't seem to like the score he was given on his second and third runs. Taking a page from his fellow countryman Kazuhiro Kokubo, Ikkou let the bird fly in front of the dozens of cameras filming for live TV to be broadcast all over Europe. Three riders who were stoked on their scores, however, were Janne Korpi, Christian Haller, and Iouri Podladtchikov. Those were your top three finishers today, with Janne putting down a pretty insane third place run. In it, he landed a massive air-to-fakie, a Cab ten double cork, an alley oop backside rodeo, a backside five, and a front ten. Second place went to Christian Haller who put down a frontside air, a backside five, a frontside double cork ten, a Cab ten and a frontside ten. But it was Ipod who couldn't be beat and he took a victory lap after putting down an insane run that more than likely will get him on the podium in Sochi in just a few weeks. Iouri landed a run consisting of a frontside nine tail, a backside nine, a frontside ten, and a Cab double cork ten, and took home first place for the second time.
Thanks to everyone who made the Burton European Open happen, as every year, it's one of my favorite contests to attend. I love Europe, for many reasons, and the European Open is one of them.
First – Iouri Podladtchikov
Second – Christian Haller
Third – Janne Korpi
First – Ursina Haller
Second – Verena Rohrer
Third – Carla Somaini