It's been said that next to the Olympics, the annual Winter X Games is the biggest winter sporting event in the world. In some ways you could argue that X Games is even more important, having included sports like ski halfpipe and slopestyle for a decade before this year's decision to make them Olympic events.
In that light, an X Games medal ranks among the biggest achievements in snow sports, and Canada is doing more than holding its own. Over the course of the weekend, Canadians earned 12 podiums including seven gold medals — despite missing some key athletes in sports we usually do well in.
The X Games got off to a good start with Kaya Turski winning her third consecutive ski slopestyle title, landing the first ever switch 1080 by a female competitor in a competition.
Like other Canadians, Turski dedicated the win to her fallen teammate Sarah Burke, an X Games champion who passed away on Jan. 19 as a result of a training injury.
"We have someone watching from above whom we need to make proud," she said. "She constantly pushed the sport, even when she didn't need to, by doing new and harder tricks. I think now it's our turn to keep pushing for her."
In her post-run interview, Turski said: "I always looked up to Sarah, I always will look up to Sarah, and just heading into the first rail I even said to myself 'let's do this Sarah.' She was with me the whole run."
Americans Devin Logan and Anna Segall were second and third. Also for Canada, 17-year-old Dara Howell was sixth overall and Kim Lamarre made the finals to place 10th.
Also taking place on Thursday were the Snowboard Street competition, the Snowmobile Freestyle final and the men's ski slopestyle final. The top Canadian in Snowboard Street was Phil Jacques in fifth. In Ski Slopestyle, an event Canada typically does well in; several of the athletes have been sidelined with injuries or, like JF Houle, are returning from injuries. Houle placed 10th overall. The podium was all-American with Nick Goepper first, Tom Wallisch second and Bobby Brown third.
On Friday, the big event for Canada was the snowboard big air, where 18-year-old Mark McMorris and 21-year-old Sebastien Toutant were first and third after four runs. Torstein Horgmo of Norway picked up the silver medal.
In the women's snowboard slopestyle the top Canadian was Spencer O'Brien, who had a few miscues in all of her runs. The top spot went to American Jamie Anderson, followed by Enn Rukajarvi of Finland and Kjersti Oestgaard Buaas of Norway.
Americans also dominated the women's snowboard superpipe on Friday — a sport where Canada has not been as competitive as in past years. Kelly Clark, Elena Hight and Hannah Teter were first through third in the rankings.