David Wise, Alex Ferreira Battle 'Abysmal' Conditions To Take Silver, Bronze in Ski Halfpipe

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Wise previously won the ski halfpipe event in 2014 and 2018.  Lee Jin-man/Associated Press

ZHANGJIAKOU, China—Nico Porteous of New Zealand overcame the swirling wind to win the Olympic halfpipe final on a day when many skiers struggled to land their best tricks due to strong gusts.

Porteous scored a 93 in his opening run on a bitterly cold and breezy Saturday in the last event at the Genting Snow Park. He was blown off course on another run and landed hard on his shoulder.

Two-time Olympic champion David Wise of the United States took home the silver with his first-run score of 90.75. The 31-year-old Wise won the event at its Olympic debut in 2014 and again in ’18. His teammate, Alex Ferreira, threw down a strong first run, twirling his right ski pole at the bottom in elation, to end up with the bronze.

The podium was the same as at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, just in a different order. Back then, it went Wise, Ferreira and Porteous.

The last competitor to go, Aaron Blunck, crashed his head and shoulder into the wall of the halfpipe while trying to land a trick in the breezy conditions. Wise ran up the halfpipe in his ski boots to check on his teammate. Blunck eventually sat up and made his way down.

Just before Blunck went, NBC Olympic freestyle skiing analyst Tom Wallisch commented: "These conditions are abysmal right now.”

And after his first run, Blunck, the top qualifier, labeled the competition “gnarly.” It had nothing to do with the performances and everything to do with the poor weather. Quite a few competitors caught wind gusts in the air and either had to bail on tricks or even worse, crashed. A common sight was watching skiers hike back up the halfpipe to retrieve a ski. Or, in the case of Wise, both of them after his wipeout in his second run.

Although the wind was reported to be around 15 mph (24 kph), the gusts kept on coming. It was cold, too, with the wind chill hovering around minus 26 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 32 degree Celsius).

“I think most of the main guys have scaled their runs back,” said Gus Kenworthy, the American freestyler who won silver at the 2014 Sochi Games in slopestyle and now represents Britain in the halfpipe. “The top three were so impressive, their runs were so good. But they’re not the runs that they wanted to do coming out here. Everyone has had to adapt and modify … It’s a tough tough day to do this.”

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