Hall, Sildaru turn on style to close Mammoth Grand Prix

Kelly Sildaru of Estonia and USA’s Alex Hall finished atop the freestyle skiing slopestyle podiums on the final day of action at the U.S. Grand Prix World Cup event on Sunday (9 January) in Mammoth Mountain, California.

By Jonah Fontela
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

The final event of a weather-impacted U.S. Grand Prix was the freeski slopestyle finals. Alex Hall won out on the men's side after a monster last run of the day while Estonia's Kelly Sildaru was the top performer in the women’s competition.

Sildaru is going from strength to strength after fully recovering from a broken hand sustained last year that forced her to ski without poles during the last two World Cup events. Her forward momentum, and ability to keep cool in the clutch, has her in a strong position to challenge for gold at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which begin on 4 February.

On the men's side, the equally unflappable Alex Hall looks like a safe bet to make a big impact in Beijing too

Hall ice-cold as ever

No one loves a last run with everything on the line like Hall.

Same as he did at the Big Air event last year in Steamboat, Colorado, where he unleashed a huge 1980 in the competition's final run, Hall – born in Alaska, raised in Switzerland and trained in Park City, Utah – saved his best for last on Sunday.

The tall American who fairly oozes elegance needed something special in the final run of the day after big scores from USA teammate Nick Goepper (94.75), the two-time Olympic medallist who finished in second place, and Canada’s Evan McEachran (93.00), who eventually thwarted an all-American podium by taking third.

And following his usual fancy dance through the rails, and huge air on the first jump, Hall unleashed a massive 1440 which proved a fitting grand finale to the penultimate freeski slopestyle World Cup event before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games.

“I’m so hyped,” he said after his 95.5 score ruled the day's talented field. “Everyone skied so well and it’s just a matter of trying to focus on yourself and try your best. It’s nice when it all works out, but, for everybody, we’re just trying to ski our best out there.

READ | Alex Hall Puts the Style in Slopestyle

“I’m stoked [at the possibility of returning to the Olympics],” added Hall, who's now met the qualifying criteria to take part in his second Olympics Games (though U.S. Ski and Snowboard will confirm the final official roster soon). “But I don’t want to think about it too much and I just want to focus on my skiing.”

Top spot to Sildaru; Gu crashes out

Sildaru, who will represent Estonia at the Beijing Games, edged out the high-flying Gu to top spot on the women's slopestyle podium just 24 hours after a reverse finish (Gu first and Sildaru second) in the women’s halfpipe finals.

The Estonian’s first run ended up being the winner, with a clean set through the rail section followed by a 1080 and 900 to earn a score of 93.75. Gu, who dominated the halfpipe season and picked up her crystal globe for the discipline yesterday, tried to improve on her impressive first score (91.00) in an attempt to overtake the Estonian.

But the 18-year-old superstar-in-the-making and three-discipline gold medal threat at Beijing 2022 crashed trying to land a double cork 1260 to close out what would have been a winning run had she landed it.

USA’s Maggie Voison did her hopes of competing in Beijing a world of good with her third-place finish.

“I’m pretty emotional, which is not unexpected,” said the 23-year-old two-time X Games gold-medal winner and PyeongChang 2018 veteran. “It’s been a rough start to the year for me and to put a run down here and snag third feels really, really, good.

“I went in feeling that I had that run and, once I made it through that first one, I knew I had it,” the American added.

There’s one more pre-Beijing 2022 FIS World Cup stop to go – in Fort Romeu, France on 16 January.

Kelly Sildaru
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

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