US riders call the snowboard shots in Lillehammer

Picture by Arnt Folvik YIS/IOC

US riders call the snowboard shots in Lillehammer The Lillehammer 2016 snowboard competitions were held at two separate venues, with Oslo’s Vinterpark staging the halfpipe events and the Hafjell Freepark providing the setting for the snowboard cross and slopestyle competitions. Spearheaded by the irrepressible Chloe Kim, the USA virtually swept the board, winning every event bar the women’s boardcross, where the gold was claimed by France’s Manon Petit.

Chloe Kim © Jon Buckle for YIS/IOC

Chloe Kim was unquestionably one of the stars of the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games. Arriving in Norway with a lofty reputation, having become the very first female snowboarder to nail two 1080s in competition at Park City in early February, the 15-year-old proved that she is one of the best, if not the best, on the entire international scene.

Discussing Chloe’s burgeoning ability, Australia Emily Arthur, who won halfpipe silver, said: “She really is the best snowboarder in the world.” Echoing those words was Finland’s slopestyle silver medallist Elli Pikkujamsa, who said of the young American star: “She’s so stylish. She’s amazing.”

Both athletes were beaten to gold by Chloe, and their views were shared by the fans at the Vinterpark, where she pulled out three stunning runs in the halfpipe, the first of which earned her an impressive score of 96.5, well clear of Arthur and bronze medallist Jong Yu Rim of Republic of Korea.

The US boarder was at it again on the Freepark slopestyle course five days later, cruising to her second gold by some distance from Pikkujamsa and another Finn in Henna Ikola.

Chloe’s 17-year-old compatriot Jake Pates is another young rider who looks to have what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Impressing with the range and quality of his tricks in completing a stylish double of his own, Jake beat fellow American Nikolas Baden and Slovenia’s Tit Stante to the gold in Oslo, and then got the better of Russia’s Vlad Khadarin and Finland’s Rene Rinnekangas in Hafjell.

Boardcross perfection

(From left) Manon Petit FRA, Sophie Hediger SUI  © Arnt Folvik for YIS/IOC

Held at Hafjell of day four of the YOG, the women’s snowboard cross competition saw 17-year-old French rider Manon Petit produce a dominant performance to stop USA completing a clean sweep. Fluid and perfectly balanced on the board, she won every round of the competition, laying down a marker in qualifying before easing to victory in the five heats, the semi-final and the final, where she was followed in by Switzerland’s Sophie Hediger and Caterina Carpano of Italy.

“My family and my friends who are here for me [are in my heart],” said Manon. It’s so beautiful to have a gold medal.” Like Manon, the USA’s Jake Vedder won all his races on route to boardcross gold, though Australia’s Alex Dickson pushed him all the way to the line in the final, with Germany’s Sebastian Pietrzykowski taking the bronze.

Jake Vedder © Arnt Folvik for YIS/IOC

“Crossing that line was an emotional experience - it’s crazy, it’s awesome,” said Jake. “I worked all summer. Before a race I try to stay in the moment and just be myself… routine pays off for sure. I shut everyone out and focus.”

Germany win the team ski-snowboard cross

A brand new event, the team ski-snowboard cross event produced some superb entertainment at Hafjell, with 44 riders in 11 teams facing off in some thrilling relay races.

Teams featured two male and two female athletes – a skier and a boarder for each sex – with the race order seeing the female snowboarders first out of the gate. As soon as they crossed the finish line, the female skiers hit the course, followed in turn by the male snowboarders and, finally, the male skiers. Competitors were only allowed out of the start gate once their preceding team-mate had completed their run.

Adopting a knockout format, the competition was won by Germany, with their quartet of Jana Fischer (snowboard), Celia Funkler (ski), Sebastian Pietrzykowski (snowboard) and Cornel Renn (ski) edging the final ahead of Switzerland and Mixed Team 4, which comprised a Ukrainian, two Swedes and a Bulgarian.

“It feels awesome to be an Olympic gold medallist,” said Cornel. “I didn’t think it before, but it was [great] that there was a team competition. Everyone could show [their] skills. We had a good team so we had the chance to win. And we did. This is a new Olympic sport and it’s a good idea.”