Nobody has more wins. Nobody has more podium finishes. And nobody had a more impressive run during Red Bull Joyride than Whistler's own Brandon Semenuk.
Semenuk won his third title, and his second in a row, in the signature slopestyle event of Crankworx Whistler on Saturday, Aug. 16, putting together a near-flawless first run that scored a 96.8 from judges and put the 23-year-old into the Joyride record book.
"I'm so pumped," Semenuk said after becoming the event's first three-time champion. "It's insane just to win this event, never mind do it back-to-back. It's so stressful, but a huge relief now."
It was an all-Canadian podium on Saturday night, as Brett Rheeder (94.2) finished second and Anthony Messere (84.0) placed third.
Like Semenuk, Rheeder earned his score on the first run, which included a corked 720 and a pair of textbook flip-whips — one coming on the course-ending whale-tail step-down. It was arguably the best run ever assembled in a Crankworx slopestyle competition.
That is, until Semenuk brought his mastery to the course about a half-hour later.
Semenuk had the crowd of nearly 30,000 fans roaring the whole way down — from his backflip drop-in to start it off, to the cork 720 he threw off the final step-down. Those tricks book-ended a run that was also highlighted by a foot-plant 360 off the iconic cabin feature, a perfectly executed backflip double-whip and an earlier cork 7.
But if he hadn't convinced the judges already, it was the final trick off the whale tail that guaranteed Semenuk a score one-upping Rheeder's.
"Honestly, I really didn't want to do it," Semenuk said with a smirk when asked about the step-down 7. "It's a big trick and basically that's what I needed to get ahead of Rheeder without having to go too crazy on the upper part of the course.
"He went pretty hard and I had to figure out what my best bet was, and that was the run I came up with that I thought was my best chance."
Semenuk and Rheeder remained in the top two positions by the time every other rider had taken their second runs. With his last chance to bump Semenuk from the No. 1 spot, Rheeder fell early on his second run, meaning the champ got to take a victory lap before being handed the grand-prize cheque for $25,000 at the bottom of the course.
"It's nice to be in the pole position and watch everything go down," said Semenuk. "Obviously if Rheeder was ahead of me, I would have dropped in and done a crazier run again."
Semenuk is the first rider to win back-to-back Crankworx Whistler slopestyle titles since Paul Basagoitia won the first two in 2004 and 2005. His six podium finishes in the event is also a record.
Rheeder, who was one spot off the podium in 2012 and missed last year's Joyride due to injury, said it was frustrating to watch Semenuk top him, but he was hardly surprised at how his rival's run came together.
"He saw my run, he knew what he had to do, he's consistent as hell, and he got down to the bottom," said the 21-year-old from Ontario. "I knew there was a really good chance he would get down and I'd have to walk to the top and think of a gnarlier run. I was ready to do it, but I guess it doesn't always work out.
"Fourth place in 2012, sidelined 2013, second place 2014. At least I'm working my way up," added last year's X Games Munich champ. "I had bigger plans today, but maybe it happened for a better reason."
Messere ranked third after Run 1, but found himself off the podium when Logan Peat posted a score of 83.80 on Run 2. Messere linked up another strong trip down the course shortly after to go back into the bronze-medal position.
Three years ago, Messere had his breakout performance at Joyride by finishing third as a 16-year-old. The Surrey native said getting back on the podium in Whistler brought back some memories.
"It feels the exact same coming into the corral and everything. It's like déjà vu of 2011 — third place, too," said this year's Crankworx Les 2 Alpes winner, adding that he was glad to find success so close to home.
"I have so many of my friends and whole family here and everything, so to have them in the crowd watching is awesome. I've got so much support."
Prior to Saturday's contest, riders had been lauding the Joyride course as the best Crankworx had ever seen, but it swallowed up a few of the top contenders. Past champions like Cam Zink and Thomas Genon weren't able to finish off a clean run, nor were previous Joyride podium finishers such as Cam McCaul and Darren Berrecloth.
A couple more riders had podium-worthy runs in the works that they weren't able to take all the way to the bottom of the course. Nicholi Rogatkin introduced himself to Whistler with a first-run attempt that included a backflip double-whip and a cash roll, but the American rider wiped out trying a tail-whip off the cabin.
Meanwhile, French veteran Yannick Granieri probably deserved better than the 61.40 he received for his first run, so he tried to take it up a notch on Run 2. After a 360 double-whip on the early section of the course, Granieri managed to front-flip the cabin step-up, but couldn't ride out the landing. He bowed to an appreciative crowd from the top of the cabin, but ultimately settled for his first-run score and a seventh-place finish.
Granieri was one of three Frenchmen in the top 10 — Louis Reboul (79.4) and Tomas Lemoine (73.6) were fifth and sixth. Carson Storch, Tomas Zejda and Kelly McGarry were the others in the 18-rider field to earn top-10 finishes.
Since his first podium finish at Crankworx Whistler in 2007, Semenuk has only missed the podium twice in his hometown event. Each of his three wins have been with impressive, bar-raising performances in the Boneyard. But Saturday's triumph might end up being his most memorable.
"They're all pretty special, but definitely this one — obviously it's right now and it's in the moment, but it feels good," he said. "That was definitely one of the crazier runs that I've had to lay out."
Joyride kicked off a quick stretch of four FMB World Tour Diamond Series events that ends with Red Bull Rampage on Sept. 28. The next one, the Bearclaw Invitational, goes Saturday, Aug. 23, at Mount Washington.
Semenuk is the three-time defending champ of that event, but he trails Messere slightly in the Diamond Series standings after two of five competitions.
If you missed Joyride on Saturday or need another look, head over to www.crankworx.com for a full replay.
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