Darcy Sharpe got his season off to a strong start in Beijing.
The 20-year-old resident of Whistler via Comox earned a third-place finish at the season-opening Air + Style event in Beijing on Nov. 18 and 19. Marcus Kleveland of Norway took the win, edging Canadian Sebastian Toutant.
Sharpe said some of the event's challenging logistics resulted in competitors being stuck in buses for extended periods of time, but the trade-off was getting the chance to compete — and excel — in front of a crowd of thousands at the Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium.
"It feels pretty amazing. That event is a legendary contest so to have a medal from it is freakin' surreal," he said. "It was intense, very stressful... It was still fun and once we were snowboarding, there were lots and lots of people watching. A whole third of a stadium was full and that stadium seats 90,000 people."
Sharpe attended the same contest last year, but estimated more people attended in 2016. At any rate, he was able to focus on the run, though the energy was contagious upon landing.
"You don't really feel them too much up on top of the stadium because it's all dark in the bleachers. You don't even see people unless they shine a light on it," he said. "It is very exciting when you get to the bottom (and hear) the noise they can make."
Sharpe explained he got a fair bit of time on snow leading up to the competition and was able to work on some new tricks, though some will need to go back to the drawing board.
"I was riding smooth and consistent, switching up one of my two tricks," he said. "I got to try a new trick that I didn't quite land but I was really excited to break the ice on it.
"I'll learn it over January and hopefully have it for X Games."
This past weekend, Sharpe helped the 2018 Winter Olympic Games organizers test the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre in PyeongChang, South Korea. Though he placed 10th in the competition and didn't perform as well as he'd have liked, Sharpe was still pleased to get the chance to try it out.
"It was a really good environment and it was cool to see where the Olympics are going to be. It's going to be an insanely epic venue," Sharpe said, adding he preferred the atmosphere in South Korea after being in China.
"It was a little bit of a flat landing, but it was a good thing they had the test event to realize these things," he added.
Up next for Sharpe is the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colo. but until then, he's glad to be back in Whistler shredding on his home mountains.
"I'm really happy to be back in Whistler riding a real mountain," he said. "It was killing me when I was in Korea seeing (the conditions here) on social media."
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