Despite windy conditions, Americans David Wise, Alex Ferreira on Olympic freeski halfpipe podium again
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – The U.S. skiers called themselves the Good Vibes Crew, making the best of their pandemic Olympics.
That included PGA on the Xbox, a virtual reality shooter game and intense recovery sessions of massage, chiropractic treatment and Normatec pants.
On Saturday, they welcomed in an honorary member and took those vibes atop the Beijing Olympics podium. In a shuffling of the podium four years ago in Pyeongchang, Americans David Wise and Alex Ferreira took silver and bronze, respectively, while New Zealand’s Nico Porteous won gold.
The three found a way to put down runs on a windy day that saw several skiers get blown around by gusts. Already cold at Genting Snow Park, the winds made it feel like -30 degrees.
“You can’t control everything, but you can control your attitude about how you approach it and I think that both Nico and Alex and I just embraced the wind today,” said Wise, who won the first two Olympic gold medals in this event. “This is what it is, so we’re going to go out there and ski the best we possibly can.”
Porteous became New Zealand’s first male athlete to win gold in the Winter Olympics, two weeks after Zoi Sadowski-Synnott won snowboard slopestyle to be the first woman.
Four years ago, Porteous won bronze in Pyeongchang behind Wise and Ferreira.
“I think it’s a little bit of luck, to be honest,” Porteous said. “In our sport, and especially on a day like today, it’s anyone’s game. It’s anyone’s shot.”
For the most part, skiers toned down their runs. Going big out of the halfpipe is necessary to pull off the big tricks they’re used to, but for most it carried more risks with gusts of wind.
The medalists all weathered that in their own way.
Porteous spun all four directions – left, right, switch (or backward) left and switch right – while landing the hardest tricks of the day. For the past two years, the 20-year-old has been working on perfecting his double cork 1620s, tricks that require him to do two off-axis flips while spinning 4 ½ times.
They’ve now become so standard for him that he did two back-to-back.
“Nico earned the gold by coming out and landing both 16s in spite of the wind,” Wise said. “I’m proud to have gotten the run down that I did. … Sharing the podium with (Alex) and Nico again was amazing.”
Wise went for a safer run, also spinning four ways while landing back-to-back double cork 1260s. The 31-year-old had learned double cork 1620s in two directions, and had other tricks he hoped to unveil, but chose not to.
His first trip ended up being enough, as he fell on his last two runs.
Ferreira, meanwhile, did a run with four double corks, including one rotated 1440, to get his second Olympic medal.
It was more than welcome after having neck surgery nine months ago to address continued nerve pain after a crash while training.
“No one liked me. I didn’t like me, because I was just demoralized every day, in such horrible pain,” Ferreira said. “I just started to get motivated again. I started to feel like me again. I started to just be happy and really live my life.”
Part of that was learning the double cork 1620s, pushed again by Porteous after years of stagnation in his skiing.
The young Kiwi progressed the sport forward, with intention, and others have followed. Triple corks , or three off-axis flips, are common in slopestyle with skiers going off bigger jumps. As of a week ago, halfpipe snowboarders joined them.
Competing on the same icy walls the freeskiers did, Japan’s Ayumu Hirano landed the first triple cork in a run to win Olympic gold.
MEDAL COUNT: How every country has performed at the Beijing Games
“I think the goal in mind when I invented these tricks is I really didn’t want to see the sport going to triples. I really believe that there is a lot more to do before we reach triple corks,” Porteous said. “I think there’s also some really exciting things that still have never been done.”
In an odd way, the windy conditions for the Olympic final might have slowed that.
Porteous and Ferreira were the only ones to land double cork 1620s. To the extent anyone else in the field has them but didn’t do them, like Wise, that step forward will have to wait.
And the familiar podium friends agreed that’s a good thing. They want more creativity, more opportunity to pick something unique from their peers.
That, the crew agreed, would be a good thing.
“We were just waking up every morning, hanging out with each other, only talking positive thoughts,” Ferreira said. “We get out here and it’s less-than-ideal conditions, and you have to just kind of flip that switch in your head. OK, it’s not the best. But I can do my best.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Despite windy conditions, Americans David Wise, Alex Ferreira on Olympic freeski halfpipe podium again