By George Halim
Canada’s top medal contenders in the newest snowboarding event slopestyle are already putting up numbers before the Sochi Olympics kick off officially tomorrow.
On the women’s side, Spencer O’Brian of Courtenay, B.C., set the bar high, scoring 82.75 on her first run, automatically qualifying for the finals.
Also going through to the next round is 20-year-old Jenna Blasman of Kitchener, Ont.
After breaking her left wrist a few months ago, Blasman sported a cast for her run early this morning. Her score of 60.25 was good enough to place her in the semi-final’s Sunday, Feb. 9.
Although competing in the Olympics is surreal for Blasman, competing alongside her snowboarding hero O’Brian is a little bit sweeter.
“It’s really unreal at first but I’ve gotten used to it,” Blasman told Humber News. “It’s nice to have such great souls in this field of riders. The girls are really supportive of each other and very genuine.”
Slopestyle is an event for freestyle snowboarders and skiers that involves performing tricks in the air as well as on rails and boxes. Unlike other events, there is no clock. The scores are based on style points and trick difficulty.
Having qualified for the next round, Blasman plans on working hard in practice before pulling out some new stunts that will hopefully win the judges over.
“I kept it really conservative today. On Sunday I’m going to give it all I’ve got and hopefully throw some cab 5s or front 7s in the mix.”
Although she’s competed since she was 12, Blasman said she had butterflies, something she wasn’t used to.
“It was actually the first time that nerves got to me before a competition,” said Blasman. “After practice was over I settled down and just let autopilot take over.”
Blasman said the course in Sochi is challenging and different than many courses she’s been on.
“The course is huge. It’s the biggest course I’ve ever ridden, but once you start getting comfortable with it, it’s a blast.”
In the men’s slopestyle, Quebec natives Maxence Parrot and Sebastian Toutant finished their days strong, earning spots in the finals.
Although Parrot’s first heat score of 91.75 would have been enough to get him through, he scored 97.50 in his second run. The highest score of the day.
With his stellar qualifying run, Parrot is instantly under the eye of all Canadians as a potential podium candidate when he performs in the finals on Saturday, Feb. 8.
Toutant finished third in the opening qualifying heat with a score of 87.25.
Mark McMorris of Regina, Sask. scored 89.25 despite fracturing his ribs two weeks ago, and Quebec’s Charles Reid, scored 75.50, landing them spots in the semi-final.
Prior to the competition, Parrot along with Toutant were in the news for comments they made off the slopes.
American snowboarder Shaun White dropped out of the slopestyle event last week, saying it was too dangerous for his liking.
Almost immediately, the Canadian pair mocked their American counterpart on Twitter, claiming he wasn’t afraid of injury, but instead afraid to lose.
“Shaun knows he won’t be able to win the slopes, that’s why he pulled out. He’s scared!”
Toutant followed that up with:
“Mr. White… Its easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can’t win…”
Since then, both tweets have been taken down, and Parrot offered an apology.