Canadians stand tall in North Face pipe contest 

Groenewoud tops women's event, Riddle fourth

click to enlarge High flyersSome of the top freeskiers in the world changed their travel plans to be in Whistler last weekend for a rescheduled North Face Park and Pipe Open halfpipe event.
  • High flyersSome of the top freeskiers in the world changed their travel plans to be in Whistler last weekend for a rescheduled North Face Park and Pipe Open halfpipe event.

Despite the last minute change of venues from Ontario to Whistler, B.C., it was an all-star lineup of athletes in the North Face Park and Pipe Open Series superpipe taking place on Sunday. The men's competition included overall AFP pipe champion Gus Kenworthy, as well as members of the Canadian and U.S. national teams, while World Champion Rosalind Groenewoud and Keltie Hansen of the Canadian women's "A" group were in the women's field.

The athletes had to contend with a lot of weather in the days leading up to Sunday's competition with warm temperatures on Thursday and Friday, snow all day on Saturday and cold temperature for the finals on Sunday. As a result some of the athletes held back on competing with their biggest or newest tricks, saving those for this weekend's Dew Tour event and the X Games at the end of the month.

Kenworthy had the biggest and cleanest first run of the day to post the high score of 88.2. Other athletes tried to top him in the second run, but almost all of the athletes crashed or had miscues the second time around, like missed grabs or issues with landings that stole all their momentum. In the end Kenworthy's first run would stand until the end.

"I was a little scared to do a double (inverted trick) in the pipe because it was a little icy and stuff like that, but I did a couple of corked 1080s and rode switch, and went big and had good grabs and it worked out," he said.

Kenworthy said he made it a point to come to Whistler and do this event.

"It's an AFP gold event which means the only events that rank higher throughout the year are X Games, Euro X Games and Dew Tour, so to have another event that's in the same bracket is awesome. The points are super important to me, I'm trying to win the overall (AFP tour title) again. And there's good prize money and a good course — and it's awesome to keep competing between events."

Kenworthy also said he never misses a chance to compete in Whistler. "I love the mountains, the village, the nightlife — it's my favourite place to come and compete."

More impressive than the win was the fact that he did it without any training runs. He broke his binding that morning, and had to head down the mountain to replace it. By the time he was back at the pipe the contest was ready to start.

In second place was Calgary's Kris Atkinson, an up and coming rider who is not currently with the national team, but made a strong case for his inclusion. He also earned the last remaining spot in X Games.

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