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Walter Wood wins WSI

$50,000 in cash and prizes awarded at superpipe comp

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After two days of qualifiers, there were 18 men and 11 women remaining in the running for the 2010 World Skiing Invitational superpipe, held in the biggest pipe ever built by Whistler and Blackcomb.

Each athlete had two runs to win over the panel of four judges, with their scores averaged after each round. The best of the two averaged scores would count towards the overall.

Although he's just 18 years old, Colorado's Walter Wood was hardly a surprise to win first place and the $15,000 prize. Not only did he land the first 1620 in a superpipe contest - that's four and a half rotations - he has been climbing the pro ranks with podiums in World Cup contests and top 10 results in the top pro competitions.

He struggled a little on his first run, although he still managed to rank third heading into the second run.

"I'm really proud of my second run, I threw a 1440 in at the bottom and completely changed my entire run and it really couldn't have gone better," said Wood, who finished the day with a score of 91.5. "I just hoped it would be good enough, and in the end it was. There were so many good skiers here."

Given the number of top athletes that have passed through the WSI over the years, including past winners Tanner Hall and Justin Dorey, Wood said he felt honoured to be on the podium.

"When I think about it that way it gives me chills, following guys like that is just a huge honour," he said.

While the conditions were soft, Wood is used to the bigger, 22-foot-wall pipes from competing at the X Games.

"It was a lot more slushy than what I'm used to and I think that made things a little harder, but it was the same for everybody," he said. "You just had to suck it up and make the most of it, and I think I did that today. It was a great pipe, a great contest, and I'm just really happy to be here at these mountains, at this festival.

"This was my best result this year, and now I'm sad that the season is ending because I want to keep going."

Like many of the younger kids coming up in the sport, the chance of competing in the Olympics in 2014 is a huge motivation. The International Ski Federation is requesting the addition of the sport at the next IOC conference on sport in September. And given the television ratings for the snowboard halfpipe they are expected to approve the sport - although as the host nation Russia will have the final say.

"I've been training hard because I believe the sport will be in the Olympics in 2014," Wood said. "Everybody wants to go, everybody's talking about it, and that's my dream - to compete in the Olympic Games. It's a huge motivation for all of us."

Second place and $8,000 went to Joss Christensen of Utah with an 86.3, followed by Taylor Seaton of Colorado who earned $4,000 with an 85.3.

The top Canadian was Noah Bowman of Calgary, who placed fourth with an 84.2.

On the women's side there was no question that the winner was Jen Hudak, who finished her first run with a score of 90.0 - almost 10 points ahead of her nearest competitor. She crashed in her second run, but none of her competitors managed to close the gap.

"I've just been skiing a lot," she said. "Riding my bike in the summer and skiing all winter."

Hudak had the biggest trick of the contest, landing a stylish 1080 perfectly on the bottom of the course while pushing as much air as the men.

While the weather could have been better, Hudak was glad that the rain held off. "Thanks to the Whistler weather for not really raining today and for all the sun the last couple of days. It's been great," she said.

Hudak won $7,500 plus $2,500 in prizes.

Calgary's Megan Gunning took second place and $3,000 (plus $1,500 in prizes) with an 80.5. She was followed by Mirjam Jaeger of Switzerland who earned $1,000 plus $1,000 in prizes with a 74.3.

Following the main competition the event switched over to an athlete-judged superhit contest, with the top male and female each winning a $2,000 bar tab at any bar that serves Kokanee beer. Rob Heule of Calgary got the most votes for the men, while Hudak placed first for the women.

Following the Grenade Games on Saturday night the winners from the WSI superpipe will have a chance to draw for the Chevrolet Camaro on display beside the mainstage. One of four athletes will win the car, worth an estimated $27,000.

 

 

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