Eileen Gu may be the undisputed young ‘Queen’ of soaring, spinning and twisting through the air, pushing boundaries on skis, but David Wise is the ‘old man of the mountain.’
Gu, 18, walks away from the Beijing Olympic Winter Games having astounded big-time with her double gold medal and silver performance, performing what many believed wasn’t possible on a pair of skis, but Wise, 31, has been raising the bar in freestyle skiing for more than a decade. The U.S. skier gave it everything he had, and then some, seeking a third consecutive ski halfpipe gold medal. His 90.75 point first run tally was just a few points short of 20-year-old champion Nico Porteous of New Zealand, who wowed the judges and his fellow competitors, nailed all of his aerial maneuvers for a winning 93.00 first run tally.
Ski halfpipe made its Olympic debut in Sochi 2014 and the American veteran freestyle skier from Nevada has been the mark of consistency ever since demonstrating longetivity and his persistent assault on the sport for more than a decade. Wise now has three Olympic medals in three Olympic Games, adding to his four X Games superpipe titles, the first way back when in Aspen 2012. The veteran competitor and his fellow freestyle skiers threw tricks while battling significant winds, adding to the challenge at Genting Snow Park on Saturday.
“It was a pretty wild day out there with the wind, but you know, that’s part of our competition – you can’t always schedule it on the perfect day,” Wise said. “To come out and land my first run, obviously quite a bit of a different story from the last Olympics, but I’m just super proud to be out here still hanging in there with these guys.”
Porteous was undoubtedly the class of the 12-athlete final, setting the benchmark with his 93.00 first run score, one that held up through 12 competitors each making three runs down the 220-meter Secret Garden halfpipe. Porteous becomes the first freestyle skier from New Zealand ever to win an Olympic gold medal.
At 20 years, 88 days, Porteous is also the youngest gold medalist in men’s freeski halfpipe, having also won bronze at age 16 in PyeongChang 2018. Wise is the oldest medalist in the discipline at 31 years, 234 days.
“I can’t really describe that, to be honest. I’m so, so happy and I’m currently over the moon – I still can’t really believe it.” said Porteous, who shared the special moment with his brother Miguel, who also competed in the event, finishing 11th.
“The weather conditions were tough today. It was very slow and it was quite challenging,” he said. But I stomped what I knew and tried my best and left everything out there and..it’s so freezing cold right now, I’m lost for words.”
Porteous’ third run was essentially a victory lap after Wise was unable to land his tricks a short while prior. The young Kiwi attempted a huge double cork 1440 on his second trick, but face-planted on the landing. It didn’t matter though. He stood up and skied down, the gold medal surely easing the pain.
“I guess I have to keep competing,” Wise joked, after it became apparent he wouldn’t win a third gold.
“He pretty much did the run he wanted to do in spite of the wind, whereas myself and Alex (Ferreira), we scaled back a little bit and landed a run we thought would do well on this day. So, all in all, it was a pretty good contest. I’m stoked to be here.”
Wise’s U.S. teammate Alex Ferreira captured bronze with his first run 86.75 score, becoming a multiple halfpipe medalist also, having won silver at PyeongChang 2018. The 27-year-old Aspen, Colorado skier has also been a strong force in the sport, adding two Olympic medals to his two X Games and three Dew Tour titles.
“I’m ecstatic – just to be on the podium is unbelievable. It was such a difficult contest with some really tough conditions, so to be able to share the podium with my teammate, and a friend is a true joy,” Ferreira said.
Porteous is also just the second New Zealand athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics, following Zia Sadowski Synnott, who won snowboard slopestyle on February 6th. The two gold and a silver is the best performance by the southern hemisphere nation ever at the Winter Games.
No surprise as Germans take command of four-man bobsleigh
Germany’s top bobsleigh pilot Francesco Friedrich and his three pushers overtook their teammate Johannes Lochner and his crew, in the second of four runs to nab a .04 second lead in the four-man bobsleigh, in his quest for an Olympic double-double.
Friedrich – who drove to two-man gold earlier this week – and his trusty crew made up nearly two-tenths on Lochner and company overcoming a 0.16 second deficit after run number one.
“We had to attack in the second run and we did that really good,” Friedrich said. “It could be an exciting day tomorrow, we’ll give everything that we have tomorrow in the last two runs.”
The 31-year-old Friedrich appears to be in command to repeat his double gold medal performance from PyeongChang 2018. If he can stay on top through heats three and four on Sunday, he’ll join his German compatriot Andre Lange, who also won two gold medals each in two-man and four-man events, although it took Lange three Olympic Games, between 2002-2010, to collect his cache of gold medals.
Canadian Justin Kripps, who tied Friedrich for two-man gold in PyeongChang, sits in third position, 0.38 seconds off the lead.
Extremely windy conditions caused the postponement of the mixed team parallel event in Yanqing on Saturday morning. After several delays, organizers were unable to move forward with the final event on the Alpine skiing program.
The dual gender event, being contested at the Winter Games for a second time, has been rescheduled for a 9am start on Sunday morning, squeezing the competition in before the closing ceremony.
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