U.S. skiers win half-pipe gold in wake of serious crash at Grand Prix finals
Joey Ferguson, Deseret News
PARK CITY — The skiers competing in the U.S. Grand Prix on Saturday watched Canadian Simon d'Artois fall hard on the landing of his first big trick and then slide along the bottom of the half-pipe, on his back, unconscious.
They hoped and prayed he was OK, but they also had to push it out of their minds as they prepared to compete in the wake of his crash in the first round of the finals at Park City Mountain Resort.
"Personally, I don't like to watch everybody's run," said 17-year-old Torin Yater-Wallace, who finished second behind X Games champ and newly crowned U.S. champion David Wise. "It kind of scares me. Obviously when you see something like that, and somebody hits their head pretty hard, it's pretty, like mind-boggling and it really makes you think. But then you've got to go into competition mode."
d'Artois suffered a concussion but regained consciousness as medical personnel transported him out of the half-pipe on a sled. The 22-year-old held up a "rock-on" sign with his right hand, which elicited cheers from the crowd that watched silently as he was placed in a neck brace. He was flown by helicopter to University of Utah Medical Center where he underwent a CAT scan, according to Kelley Korbin, manager of media relations for the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.
"Everything is normal," Korbin said. "His head is fine. He is quite concussed and nauseated. They will keep him in the hospital, possibly overnight. His dad is with him. Everything is fine and we appreciate what the (Park City Mountain Resort) staff did to make sure he (was taken care of)."
d'Artois wasn't the only skier to have trouble in the Eagle half-pipe Saturday afternoon. Frenchman Benoit Valentin, U.S. legend Simon Dumont, Frenchman Kevin Rolland, Canadian Matt Margetts, American Annalisa Drew, Canadian Rosalind Groenewoud and Megan Gunning all fell in the finals. Eventual winner Wise fell on his second run, but earned the victory with his first-run score of 93.8. Only Valentin was unable to finish the competition, and he was being treated for a knee injury.
"The pipe was great," said the winner of the women's competition, Maddie Bowman, who earned 85.2 points. "I think everyone was killing it. There were some gnarly crashes, and our thoughts are with Simon. We're all hoping for him. But it was a great pipe. I'm glad it softened up a bit."
Bowman, Yater-Wallace and Wise said the falls were more indicative of the inviting conditions than a problem with the half-pipe.
"I think it's just so nice out," said Bowman. "I mean, this is the first warm, soft pipe we've gotten to ski in, so it's nice. ... When it's warmer, I think we just feel more comfortable and we're not as afraid to throw those bigger tricks and the vibe is a lot better."
Japan's Ayana Onozuka finished second in the women's competition with 84.4 points, while Virginie Faivre was third with 82.8 points. Bowman earned the national title, as well as the day's gold medal.
Both Bowman and Wise won X Games gold last weekend, and were thrilled to be standing atop the podium again Saturday.
"I did the same run I did at X Games," said Wise. It was kind of my statement, banner run for the year — back-to-back-to-back double corks. It's pretty much one of the more innovative runs that we've seen in half-pipe. This is what I like about skiing."
Wise said seeing other competitors crash is always unsettling.
"It's interesting watching peole fall because the contest nerves are so intense, and it makes you ski, maybe on a lesser level. I went down on my second run because my brain wasn't all the way on it. You've just got to get away from the pressure and not think too much about it."
Yater-Wallace, who scored 93.6 points, said the steep walls of the pipe may be part of the reason some skiers struggled to stay on their feet.
"(The pipe cutter) gave it a lot of vert, almost a little more than 90-degrees," he said. "So you've got to absorb when you go over the lip so you don't land too far in the flat. I guess that was kind of the big thing."
France's Rolland was third with 93 points, which he earned on his second run after falling on his first.
"That was the first clean run I've landed this year," said Rolland smiling. "I was happy to land my run."
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