Skiers supply exciting festival finish in WSI events 

Tjader, McEachran and Blackall top podiums; Brown a runner-up twice; Sharpe caps incredible season in third place

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD / WWW.DAVIDBUZZARD.COM - silvers for brown Bobby Brown flies over the Gibbons Life Big Air jump en route to a second-place finish in the April 19 event. Brown also finished second in the men's Samsung Slopestyle contest on April 20.
  • Photo By david buzzard / www.davidbuzzard.com
  • silvers for brown Bobby Brown flies over the Gibbons Life Big Air jump en route to a second-place finish in the April 19 event. Brown also finished second in the men's Samsung Slopestyle contest on April 20.

It wasn't quite enough to give him the season title, but Jesper Tjäder added one more phenomenal result during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival to close the book on his breakout season.

The 19-year-old Swede won the World Skiing Invitational's Gibbons Life Big Air in front of a huge crowd at Skier's Plaza on Saturday night, April 19, landing a double-cork 1620 with a mute grab for the victory.

"I'm pretty sure that was the best one I've ever done," Tjäder said of his winning trick after collecting a cheque for $6,000. "A lot of people were doing double-cork 1260s... but I added one more rotation, and that was pretty hard to do. And I got a good grab and a good landing, so that was special."

Tjäder earned a score of 90.0 from judges on his second of two attempts in the eight-skier final to take top spot in the event.

Meanwhile, U.S. star Bobby Brown (89.0) took second place with a switch double-cork misty 1260 mute, and Quebec's Vincent Gagnier (88.6) placed third, reaching the festival's big air podium for the fourth year in a row with a bio 1260 octo to tail grab on his second finals jump.

Tjäder has had an incredible year, making a name for himself with a big air win at the Frostgun Invitational in France and a second-place finish at the Jon Olsson Invitational just a few weeks ago. Though he came up just shy of winning the AFP World Tour's season title in the discipline — Gagnier earned that honour, edging Tjäder by a razor-thin 15-point margin — it's been a pretty memorable winter as he's burst onto the scene.

"So far, this has been the best season. I started pretty good, qualified for the Olympics," said Tjäder, who was 15th in slopestyle at the Games. "Things didn't go so good (in Sochi), but since the Olympics, everything has been going so good, I can't really believe it."

Brown had some of the most impressive amplitude on the night as light rain fell on the jump intermittently throughout the evening.

"It's the end of the season, no worries, and it's always a good crowd and a good time," he said. "The jump was really good tonight. It was a lot of fun.

"I woulda loved to have landed the switch 14, but I'll take the 12."

Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, James Woods, Joss Christensen, Alex Bellemarre and Matt Walker were the other five finalists in the event, which also served as the AFP World Championship. Whistler's Simon d'Artois wound up competing on Saturday but fell a few points short of the final, placing 11th.

In a scary moment on Saturday, Vernon skier Noah Morrison fell hard when trying a triple-cork and had to be stretchered off the course. No update on his condition was immediately available, but he did salute the crowd to indicate he was OK while being taken away by patrollers following a 10-minute delay.

In another notable moment, Aspen's Alex Ferreira stripped down to nothing but his ski boots on his second qualifying jump, drawing howls from the crowd as he threw a massive backflip, naked, over the jump.

MCEACHRAN WINS SLOPESTYLE HAMPERED BY FOG

The worse the weather, the better — or so it seems for Evan McEachran in Whistler this season.

The 17-year-old from Oakville, Ont., won the Samsung Slopestyle men's title on Sunday, April 20, after fog covered the course and cancelled the finals. Results from the morning's elimination round stood up as the final scores, which saw McEachran (87.17) beat out Brown (84.67) and Jossi Wells (81.33) for the victory.

"I'm insanely stoked to win today, I can't even believe it yet," said McEachran, who took home $6,000 for his efforts as well. "Standing on the podium with some of my idols is unreal, and it's the best way to cap off the season."

Sunday's win was McEachran's second victory in Whistler this winter, and both times he's thrived in difficult conditions. During his triumph at The North Face Pipe and Park Open Series event back in January, he took top spot when fog forced organizers to make the contest a one-run final.

"It was actually pretty similar to the North Face Open earlier in the year. I guess those conditions just sort of work for me," he said.

Brown's two runner-up finishes in two days saw him collect $8,000 total, and the 22-year-old was pumped to end his season that way.

"We kinda knew the weather might be rolling in, so I just tried to land a run, and luckily it put me in second," he said. "It's been a great season. There were definitely a lot of ups and downs, but more ups than downs, so I take that as a success. It was awesome."

Whistler-based skier Brenden Reid was the only local who made it through to the elimination round, and he finished with an impressive ninth-place result. Reid won his qualifying heat on April 18 to earn a spot on Sunday's start list. Fellow Whistler skiers Max Morello and d'Artois were both eighth in their qualifiers, but needed top-five finishes to advance.

SHARPE ENDS SEASON ON PODIUM

Mother Nature might not have been very cooperative for Sunday's slopestyle, to close out the AFP World Championships, but she eased up just enough to let the women finish their final, and allow Whistler's Cassie Sharpe to hang on to her podium spot.

The local skier finished in third place, while Ontario's Nikki Blackall won the event and Quebec's Anouk Purnelle-Faniel earned runner-up honours.

"The fact that (the result) was in slopestyle blows my mind, because slopestyle isn't obviously my forte," said Sharpe, who's mainly focused on halfpipe. "I'm really happy about it."

Sharpe fell on her first of two runs but came back to post a score of 57.50 on her second attempt, putting her into a top-three position. But the adverse weather hit the course after Sharpe completed her second run, and threatened to decide the event using only first-run scores.

"It was a bit of a head game near the end there," she said. "There were three girls left to go, three of the heavy hitters — Julia Krass, Jamie Crane-Mauzy and Nikki — and this fog rolled in and they couldn't do the second lap. They were about to call it.

"We were sitting down there, biting our fingernails, hoping the fog would roll out... Thankfully it did, and that put me in a great position."

Blackall also benefitted from the contest continuing on, as she used her second-run score of 77.67 to claim the title, and would have missed the podium if it was a one-run affair.

"I'm super stoked," said Blackall. "The first run, I wasn't able to put it down, but the second run, when it cleared up, I kind of just focused and it was the run I wanted to do."

Canadian Olympians Dara Howell, Yuki Tsubota and Kim Lamarre did not end up competing.

Sharpe's third-place finish was her best result in an AFP World Tour platinum-level event this season, and capped off an incredible run to finish the season. The 21-year-old has now reached the podium in nine consecutive AFP events between both disciplines, vaulting her to third place in the women's overall rankings to end the season. Only Olympic silver medallist Devin Logan and Crane-Mauzy finished with more overall points, which are calculated using each skier's three best results in both disciplines.

Sharpe said her season turned the corner once Olympic qualification was no longer in reach; she started skiing with less pressure after that. But she also found inspiration from coach Mike Shaw, who suffered a serious neck injury in mid-December that left him hospitalized in Colorado for weeks. Shaw is now recovering well, even running on an anti-gravity treadmill recently, but it was in the weeks immediately after his accident that Sharpe's season started to take off.

"He's one of my best friends, and it was really hard to keep competing without him. But then, I kind of had a change of thought, and was like, 'You know what? If Mike were here, he'd be telling me to get off my ass and go do something to make him proud,'" said Sharpe. "That's kind of what pushed me over the edge — that if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it all the way, and I'm going to do it for Mike."

Sharpe continues to work towards her long-term goal of representing Canada at the 2018 Olympics, and said her hot finish to this winter has her encouraged for next year.

"I'm really excited to go back to the World Cups and redeem myself," said Sharpe, who struggled on the top FIS circuit this year. "I fell a lot during (those events), so I'm looking forward to going back to those contests and showing everybody that I can do it."

Visit www.wssf.com for full results from WSI competitions.

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