Olympics-Freestyle skiing-Braving freezing wind, New Zealand’s Porteous blasts to halfpipe gold

Freestyle Skiing - Men's Freeski - Halfpipe - Final - Run 1
2022 Beijing Olympics – Freestyle Skiing – Men’s Freeski – Halfpipe – Final – Run 1 – Genting Snow Park, Zhangjiakou, China – February 19, 2022. Nico Porteous of New Zealand in action. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

February 19, 2022

By Mari Saito and Winni Zhou

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) -Facing gusts of freezing wind, Nico Porteous won in the freeski halfpipe final at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday, as members of New Zealand’s team broke into a traditional haka to celebrate the country’s first ever men’s gold at the Winter Games.

Defending champion David Wise of the United States settled for silver.

Chasing Wise’s lead in the first run Porteous landed massive back-to-back 1620s to earn his best score of 93 in his opening run, making four-and-a-half revolutions in the air.

“I’m so, so happy and I’m currently over the moon. I still can’t really believe it,” said Porteous, who won bronze at Pyeongchang four years ago.

“The weather conditions were tough today. It was very slow and it was quite challenging. But I stomped what I knew and tried my best and left everything out there,” the 20-year-old said, noting that Saturday was the coldest day this season.

Wise, who won gold in the halfpipe at both the Pyeongchang and Sochi Games, took silver with 90.75 after the American was unable to beat the New Zealander in his final run.

“It’s a whole lot better than no medal at all,” Wise told reporters after the final.

Alex Ferreira of the United States, who took the bronze with his best run score of 86.75, said it was a “super difficult” final despite having prepared for bad weather conditions.

“Everyone feels same amount of pressure,” the 27-year-old skier said.

“My goal was to get the gold and I didn’t get it but to get on the podium under these conditions feels like I got the gold.”

‘GNARLY’ CONDITIONS

Skiers soared over a giant halfpipe as frosty wind pushed air temperatures down to -22 degree Celsius (-7.6°F).

Gusts of wind kicked up snow on the course and skiers lost momentum on the pipe, with several of them crashing and falling.

“It was gnarly today. And there wasn’t even a discussion about postponing or waiting a little bit or anything,” British skier Gus Kenworthy said.

Kenworthy, who took silver in the freeski slopestyle event in the Sochi Games, came in eighth place after he fell directly onto the deck of the pipe in his second run and crashed.

American Aaron Blunck, who dropped into the halfpipe last on Saturday, crashed and fell to the bottom of the pipe. After a few moments surrounded by medical staff, the American skied down the course to applause from his teammates and rivals.

(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Mari Saito; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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