Snowboarding can be an unforgiving sport, and it was to Whistler part-timers Darcy Sharpe and Mark McMorris on Jan. 18 in the Swiss Alps. Both Canadian Olympians failed to advance to the snowboard slopestyle final of the 2023 Laax Open, one of Europe's most popular snow sports events.
Sharpe finished 12th in the first of two qualification heats. The 26-year-old fell on his first run and put up a score of 61.00 points in his second attempt. That wasn't enough to keep him alive in the competition, as sixth-place Australian Valentino Guseli's 75.25 points ended up being the cutoff.
Guseli will advance to the final on Jan. 21 along with Austrian Clemens Millauer (79.50 points), Swede Sven Thorgren (81.25 points), American Justus Henkes (82.25 points) and two Japanese riders, Hiroto Ogiwara (88.50 points) and Ryoma Kimata (93.25 points).
Although McMorris, 29, is known for rising up under pressure, he struggled to put down a complete run during the second qualification heat. His highest score was 15.75 points, placing him 25th just behind 2019 Laax Open victor Chris Corning of the United States who also failed to advance.
Instead it was another Team USA contender, Dusty Henricksen, who won Qualification Heat No. 2 by tying Kimata's effort of 93.25 points. Also moving into Saturday's final are Marcus Kleveland of Norway (89.25 points), Luke Winkelmann of the United States (84.50 points), Rene Rinnekangas of Finland (81.25 points) and local athlete Nicolas Huber of Switzerland (80.75 points).
Although 18-year-old Whistlerite Truth Smith was originally expected to compete, according to a Red Bull press release, he did not end up participating.