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Saturday was a big day for Winter Park, Colo.’s Irving family. Svea Irving finished fourth in the women’s halfpipe and her older brother Birk Irving won the men’s contest less than an hour later to give the U.S. its best finishes at the World Cup season opener in freeskiing halfpipe at Copper Mountain. And it all happened just 90 minutes from home, where their dad is the ski patrol director and their mom teaches high school Spanish.
Watch: U.S. team highlights from the freeski halfpipe World Cup at Copper
Birk had been a prodigy for a while. He landed his first sponsor at age 7 (K2 skis) and by 22, he was an Olympian who placed fifth in the Beijing halfpipe. Svea nearly made that 2022 Beijing Olympic team, too, but an injury hampered her ranking so she stayed home, cheering for her brother and the rest of the team.
On Saturday, they both were in it to win it. Svea qualified eighth in the eight-woman final, behind U.S. teammates Brita Sigourney (the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic bronze medalist in halfpipe), 18-year-old Hanna Faulhaber (who placed sixth at the 2022 Beijing Games), and another 2022 Olympian, Carly Margulies. In the best-of-three-run format, Svea put down her best run in round one—as did the Canadians who went 1-2: Rachael Karker, the 2022 Olympic bronze medalist, and runner-up Amy Frasier. Kelly Sildaru of Estonia saved her best run for last, but stayed in third place.
The men’s contest, however, ended with far more drama.
Watch: Men’s podium runs from the freeski halfpipe World Cup at Copper
With one run to go, Birk Irving sat in third place. Knowing only his best run would count, he launched to victory by connecting five tricks that featured a total of 14½ rotations off the 23-foot high walls, including the show stopper at the end: a unique double flat spin 720. His score of 93.75 points put him 1.25 points ahead of runner-up Brendan Mackay of Canada. Noah Bowman of Canada skied right after Irving. He hadn’t put down a clean run all day but the 30-year-old stomped his final effort to push the U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Alex Ferreira off the podium into fourth place by less than a point.
“I’ve gotten a few World Cup wins before,” Irving said, “but this one just hits a little different, on home turf. Whole family’s here, so it’s awesome.”
As for the double 720 flat spin, Irving said, “I’ve done it a couple times before. I had it in my head today. It’s like a double Michalchuk 7 with a bit of a pretzel flip so it’s kinda weird. In the third round I was like, ‘Yep, definitely gonna need it,’ something to set you apart. Third is never a safe place to be. You’re not safe in any podium position with everyone skiing today.”
Hunter Hess of Bend, Oregon, placed eighth for the U.S., while two-time Olympic champion David Wise and three-time Olympian Aaron Blunck missed the final cut by finishing outside the Top 10 in Thursday’s qualifier.
Watch: Women’s podium runs from the freeski halfpipe World Cup at Copper
As for the other U.S. female finalists, Faulhaber placed sixth, Sigourney finished seventh, and Margulies eighth after throwing a right-side 900 at the end of her first run, catching a piece of the deck re-entering the pipe and crashing; she didn’t take her second and third runs.
The best freeskiers on the planet will compete on U.S. snow again when the World Cup hits Mammoth Mountain, Calif., on Feb. 3-4, and once again Outside Watch will have the exclusive broadcast. Stay tuned for more details as the event gets closer.
2022 Toyota U.S. Grand Prix Freeski Halfpipe Finishers
|Birk Irving (USA)||93.75|
|Brendan Mackay (CAN)||92.50|
|Noah Bowman (CAN)||91.00|
|Alex Ferreira (USA)||90.25|
|Jon Sallinen (FIN)||87.75|
|Finley Melville-Ives (NZL)||87.00|
|Gustav Legnavsky (NZL)||82.25|
|Hunter Hess (USA)||77.50|
|Toma Matsuura (JPN)||70.25|
|Simon D'Artois (CAN)||35.00|
|Rachael Karker (CAN)||89.50|
|Amy Fraser (CAN)||85.25|
|Kelly Sildaru (EST)||82.00|
|Svea Irving (USA)||76.50|
|Dillan Glennie (CAN)||64.75|
|Hanna Faulhaber (USA)||57.75|
|Brita Sigourney (USA)||54.75|
|Carly Margulies (USA)||26.00|