For the second straight year the final downhill race at the Whistler Longboard Festival finished with a whiff of controversy. In 2011, California's James Kelly won the race after bumping into Kyle Martin and knocking him off his skateboard; in 2012, Kelly got the short end of the stick in the finals after Vancouver's Kevin Reimer bumped into him, with both skaters getting knocked off their boards and out of contention.
There was a heated exchange after the race, but Reimer maintained that the contact was incidental — he was going for the pass on the inside, but slid out too far on a corner to take out the defending champion. After reviewing a cell phone video of the crash, Kelly agreed that was probably the case — although he was still disappointed not to defend his title at the event and miss out on one of the largest cash prizes in North America — $5,000 split between the top three men.
Kelly's loss was Andrew Chapman's gain. He stayed out of the crash to take his first major win on the circuit, edging out Max Wipperman, who placed second, while Reimer recovered fastest to take the final spot on the podium.
For Chapman, a 23-year-old racer from London, Ontario, it was all about opportunity."I just stood back, they (Reimer and Kelly) tangled... I saw James try to pass and I'm like, hmmm, something could happen here. And it did. Then I saw Max do one of these (mimes a slide) and I was like, 'Oh yeah, inside."
Chapman, who rides for Landyachts, has been racing for five years and while he's finished on top a few times he said the Whistler Sliding Centre Downhill is his biggest result to date.
It was a long day of racing to get to the final run, with an injury on course holding up the first heat by about 45 minutes. As a result, it was almost 6 p.m. before the last run of the day got underway.
Chapman knew it would be tough to beat Reimer and Kelly, arguably two of the top longboarders in the world right now. But anything can happen in a sport where skaters break 100km/h (top speeds at Whistler were over 85km/h) and use controlled skids to make high speed turns.
"In the final I was last off the push. I just held back and watched everybody else do their thing, and took the opportunities on their mistakes," he said. "Two guys crashed and I knew I had an opportunity because my dominant corner is right handers (the last two turns on the course are right-hand) and that's where I took the last guy (Wipperman). I just tried to hold on with tired legs."