Americans David Wise, Alex Ferreira capture freestyle skiing halfpipe medals
The first thing that David Wise did after clinching his third Olympics medal was sprint down the center of the superpipe to the aid of an injured fellow American.
Aaron Blunck, the top qualifier in men’s freestyle skiing halfpipe, earned the right to go last and challenge for a medal, but Blunk’s final run ended after two just hits when he lost his footing and crashed head-first. He slammed his shoulder into the frozen pipe on a day when the wind chill dropped temperatures to minus 26 degrees near Beijing.
Two other officials tended to Blunck before Wise arrived at the side of his teammate, who laid on his back and side for about 90 mostly silent seconds before eventually getting to his feet and skiing off under his own power. That’s when the medalists could feel relief and celebration.
Wise, 31, was the two-time defending Olympic champion in the halfpipe but missed out on a shot at history. He was trying to join former speed-skating great Bonnie Blair and snowboarding icon Shaun White as the only Americans to win gold in the same event in three straight Olympics.
“That’s how she goes,” Wise said into the NBC cameras after realizing the gold was out of reach. “So much fun.”
The United States took two of the three medals: New Zealand’s Nico Porteus won gold with a score of 93, followed by American teammates Wise (90.75) and Alex Ferreira (86.75). Ferreira, 27, was the silver medalist in 2018 and bumped down a spot, just like Wise, to make room for the 20-year-old Porteus to move up from his past bronze.
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Only each skier’s highest-scoring of three attempts is counted, and most of the high scores came on first runs. From there, the swirling winds picked up dramatically inside the 623-foot pipe, wreaking havoc by decreasing the momentum needed to generate the heights for four- and five-rotation spins.
“The wind here is crazy,” Gus Kenworthy, a former American medalist who was competing for Britain, said during the broadcast. “They built this wind fence, which is supposed to help with the cross-mountain gusts, but what’s happening is it’s just spiraling in the pipe and slowing guys down a lot. It’s definitely the biggest factor here. I think most of the main guys have scaled their runs back.”
Even though it wasn’t gold, it was a nice culmination moment for Wise in his return from the broken femur he suffered in 2019.
The Americans had four skiers in the final, including fifth-place-finisher Birk Irving. Blunck, who broke his pelvis in 2020, finished seventh.
The two medals pushed the United States’ total to 23 (eight gold, nine silver and six bronze) as midnight Eastern neared.