Quebec's Vincent Gagnier is no stranger to the big air podium at the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) championships in Whistler, but his win on Saturday night was something he's been building up to for a long time.
"It just feels good to be on top of the podium because I was second last year and third the year before, so I just stepped it up every year," he said. "It felt safe. The landing was so soft that you couldn't really get hurt, so it just made everything super easy and super smooth. And fun."
Gagnier's signature trick is a double corked "bio" 1260 octograb (three-and-a half rotations and two flips, landing switch, while gabbing the tips of his crossed skis), which good enough to beat American Gus Kenworthy's double corked 1620 (four and a half rotations) and Henrik Harlaut's 1260 double corked nose butter.
Gagnier finished with a score of 92, Kenworthy was second was a 91 and Harlaut, the overall world tour leader this year, was third with a 90.
None of the athletes landed a triple corked trick, but with the sun warming the snow in the afternoon the athletes couldn't get enough speed to get much further than the top of the landing transition. But as temperatures cooled and things sped up, most athletes were able to attempt their signature tricks.
Gagnier said he wasn't worried too much about AFP tour points, or whether he could finish with the overall title — something that was potentially up for grabs on Saturday night with only 200 points separating the top three.
"I just let the judges decide," he said. "I do my thing and if they like it I'm happy, and if they don't — whatever. There's really no pressure, nobody is serious up there so it's really fun. It's the end of the year so everybody is relaxed."
After the contest, Gagnier said he was planning to spend the rest of the month skiing in Whistler and hanging out with friends. "There's lots of skiing, lots of park runs, still to do," he said.
In the end, Harlaut held onto the overall lead on the world tour to take the AFP big air title, while Kenworthy was second and Gagnier third.
"It was good, I had a lot of fun," said Harlaut after the event.
"I was able to get another podium, and luckily didn't miss a single podium all season, which is awesome. This was a good way to finish the season, everybody had fun, everybody killed it and I'm super-stoked for Vinny to win. He was the best today, for sure."
Harlaut said he wasn't thinking at all about the overall title, but was more focused on finishing the season on a high not by landing his signature trick. "I didn't think I'd be able to because (the in-run) was kind of slow at first, I was actually faster in qualification than I was in the finals, but everything came together. I liked the set up a lot."
Kenworthy, Voisin take win slopestyle championships
American skiers Gus Kenworthy and Maggie Voisin topped the podium at the AFP championship slopestyle on Monday, with Kenworthy scoring a 93.67 on his first run and Voisin scoring 90 on both of her runs.
Nick Goepper, another American skier, placed a close second with a 93 on his second run, while Australian Russ Henshaw picked up the bronze with a 92.67. Canadian Alex Beaulieu-Marchand was just off the podium in fourth with a 92.
On the women's side, Voisin was followed by Norway's Tiril Christiansen and American Jamie Crane-Mauzy of the U.S. Whistler's Yuki Tsubota, who is having a breakout sophomore season on the world tour and currently ranks fourth in the AFP standings, came close to the podium, but crashed on her second run to place fourth on the day.
For Kenworthy, the work really begins now, as he starts to train in earnest for the 2014 Olympics.
"I think a few of us are going to take a short vacation, and then the U.S. team has a bunch of camps and training sessions for us so it's going to be full on through the summer and into next year," he said. "It's a long season and you can get burned out, but I'm feeling energized and ready to work on my runs. I'm trying to qualify for both halfpipe and slopestyle teams so it's going to be tough, but I'm healthy and ready to get started."
Kenworthy won the AFP's overall award, named after local freeskier Sarah Burke, followed by Jossi Wells of New Zealand and Harlaut. Nick Goepper topped the men's slopestyle rankings, David Wise of the U.S. placed first in halfpipe and Harlaut placed first in big air.
On the women's side, Tiril Sjastad Christiansen of Norway ranked first overall, followed by Americans Keri Herman and Jamie Crane-Mauzy. American Maddie Bowman won the halfpipe title and Canada's Kaya Turski, who did not compete in Whistler, won the women's slopestyle title.
Complete results are available online at www.wssf.com.