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 . world ski news
28 October 2012 - 10:49
Henrik Harlaut and Billy Morgan win Big Air contests at London`s Relentless Freeze
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FREESTYLE SKI & SNOWBOARD. The fifth annual Relentless Freeze Festival took place this weekend in London, England, with the International Skiing Big Air competition happening on Friday night.


Freeze World. Amazing work from Claudiu Voicu!

Sweden's Henrik Harlaut took first place amongst challenging high wind conditions, followed by American Gus Kenworthy in second and 16-year-old Kai Mahler from Switzerland in third.

Harlaut is on a winning streak at this fall's series of urban big air contests, having also won the recent Freestyle.CH Big Air contest in Zurich.

"Even with the bad weather it was only the wind that was an issue," Harlaut said. "It made it difficult to judge speed."

Twenty of the best skiers in the world gathered at an old power plant in London for a head-to-head contest. The 20 riders were whittled down to a 10-rider semifinal, which then put the top five in a heated battle for the podium. Kenworthy, Mahler, Harlaut, Vincent Gagnier, and Mikkel Joraanstad made the cut and had to prove their ability through a three-run super final. These runs included a style run, a technical run and a run of their choice to improve one of their scores.


Gus Kenworthy took second in the big air contest and first in style. photo Robin Macdonald

Harlaut earned the highest score with an extremely stylish nose butter double 10, and nose butter cork 9 blunt secured him a high style score.

Throwing down consistent tricks all night, Kenworthy made his way to second place with a switch double rodeo 9 Japan grab and a switch cork 5 screamin' seamen Japan grab. Mahler completed a rodeo 5 tweaked safety and double cork 10 mute for third.

"Henrik has been killing it super hard. He has been unstoppable," said Kenworthy. "I'm stoked to share a podium with him on my first city big air podium."

UK local Paddy Graham did not make the main stage in the international contest but he made a big splash in the battle of Britain contest earlier in the day. Graham placed first against his fellow Englishman James Woods. Woods, a crowd favorite, failed to make the finals after being eliminated by Harlaut.


The podium at the 2012 Relentless Freeze Big Air: Henrik Harlaut, Gus Kenworthy, Kai Mahler

On Saturday night, a style contest for the skiers went down prior to the snowboard big air finals -- not the highlight event for the skiers but the crowd seemed to love the action and the weather was an improvement over Friday's main event.

In the style contest, Kenworthy won with a switch cork 5 with a screamin' seamen Japan grab, which earned a high score of 88. Harlaut took second with a rodeo 5 high safety grab for a score of 85. McRae Williams came in third with a rodeo 5 bow and arrow and scored an 82.

"Style events are a nice change of pace from the regular big air format and are great opportunities to showcase tricks you would not normally do in competition," said Kenworthy afterward. "I think they are very difficult for the judges to rank the athletes because of how different the tricks are, but it was really fun and happy I came out on top."

By  Robin Macdonald
ESPN.com
October 28, 2012, 12:23 PM ET

Relentless Freeze 2012 Freeski Big Air Final Results
Rank  Name  Score
1.  Henrik Harlaut  178.33
2.  Gus Kenworthy  174.67
3.  Kai Mahler  148.00
4.  Mikkel Joraanstad  135.67
5.  Vincent Gagnier  114.67

***

Billy Morgan makes capital at London Freeze Festival 2012

High above the crowd, on a precarious and windy platform, a lone snowboarder psyches himself up and prepares to drop in. From up there in the starting gate, the view is spectacular – taking in the iconic chimneys of Battersea Power Station and the whole London skyline.

The MC finishes his pre-amble and calls him into the spotlight:

“Billy… MORGAN!”

10,000 compatriots take up the chant: “Bi-lly! Bi-lly! Bi-lly!” and the rider slingshots his way down the icy ramp...

Yes, winter officially arrived in the UK capital on Saturday as the Big Air Invitational took place at the Freeze Festival. The annual mash-up of live music and winter sports saw 20 of the world’s best snowboarders, including local heroes Jamie Nicholls and Billy Morgan go head-to-head in a new knockout format.

It’s always a little strange to see this industrial wasteland on the banks of the River Thames transformed by a 32-metre-high tower of scaffolding and snow, with makeshift bars invaded by a motley crew of beanie-clad mountain folk and urban ravers. Somehow though, it works – and if tonight’s show is anything to go by, it will have inspired a few more Londoners to try snowboarding.

Having warmed up yesterday with a style contest – followed by the bouncing beats of Miss Dynamite and DJ Shadow – the main event kicked off with some spicy grudge matches over the jump: Norway’s Gjermund Braaten was drawn against fellow contest specialist Marko Grilc – narrowly losing out in three judged hits to the Red Bull man from Slovenia; Jamie Nicholls demonstrated his prodigious talent to the home crowd by defeating Halldor Helgason (who also enjoyed plenty of vocal support in London, thanks to being the coolest thing on the web since Facebook); and super smooth Swedes Kevin Backstrom and Sven Thorgren battled it out for Scandinavian honours.

As the competition progressed, the all-star cast of riders continued to raise the technical bar, miraculously setting their tricks down on the shortest and steepest of landings. The knockout format took no prisoners, however, and when the dust settled on the tournament only five riders had made it through to the super final: Maxence Parrot, Billy Morgan, Victor de le Rue, Marco Grigis and Tor Lundstrom.

The sight of an Englishman in the mix lent the atmosphere an extra edge and the huge crowd were in full voice, regularly breaking out into football-style chants whenever their favourite rider was about to drop. With three jumps in which to impress, the finalists had to combine both a ‘style’ and a ‘technical’ score, meaning the audience were treated to some classic slow-motion moves as well as cutting-edge whirlybird rotations.

Morgan, who had reached this stage by beating fellow Brits Jamie Trinder and Nate Kern, kept his nerve when it mattered. His textbook backside 1260 double cork (a trick he learned just days earlier during training in Hintertux) earned him a strong technical score, while he bagged maximum style points thanks to a massive, perfectly-stomped backside rodeo. When, after a tense delay, the big screen confirmed him in top spot – becoming the first British winner of the London Freeze, and indeed the first UK male to win a major international big air – the volume inside the venue was turned up to 11.

With some of the other competitors falling on their last runs, Billy even had the luxury of dropping in for his final jump knowing that he didn’t have to post a score. Displaying a natural flair for showmanship, he opted to round off his dream night with the ultimate crowd-pleaser: a gigantic laid-out backflip.

“Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow!” he said, afterwards, clearly still dazed at his achievement. “London Freeze is always great fun – this is my third year here now. The crowd are always so awesome and I just can’t wait to come back next year as defending champion!”

In true rock n’ roll style, he immediately swapped his oversized cheque for £5,000 in cold, hard cash and joined the rest of the partygoers making for the dance tent, where headline act Public Enemy were bringing down the curtain on the festival weekend.

Billy’s impressive result inevitably has the local snowboard scene excited about his chances for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where he is hoping to compete in the inaugural slopestyle, but the man himself appears to be keeping his feet on the ground.

“I’ve got a lot of qualification events to go through first,” he cautioned, “But hopefully this will be the start of a streak.”


Music, people flipping through the air? What more could you want out of a contest?

Meanwhile, attention turns to the next big event on the competitive snowboarding circuit, the O’Neill Dachstein Pleasure Jam, which will be taking place in Austria between November 9-11. This 4-star WST slopestyle event enjoys a reputation for building a creative, progressive course, while the breathtaking mountain views from the 2,700m glacier will provide a stark contrast to the concrete backdrops of London. One thing both events have in common however is the music – nobody does an after-party quite like the Austrians!

by Ed Blomfield
RedBull.com
Oct 29, 2012

Relentless Freeze 2012 Snowboard Big Air Final Results
1. Billy Morgan (GBR)
2. Marco Grigis (ITA)
3. Tor Lundstrom (SWE)


 
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