Monday’s final stop of the 2017 ski halfpipe world cup in Tignes, France, spotlighted a dramatic three-way battle for the men’s overall season title. While Alex Ferreira and Taylor Seaton gave Team USA the top two podium steps in Monday’s event, it was Frenchman Kevin Rolland who edged teammate Benoit Valentin and American Aaron Blunck on his final run to take a second consecutive crystal globe.
With points leader Torin Yater-Wallace absent, only 11 points separated the three contenders. Blunck, a 2014 Olympian, was second heading to Tignes with 190 points, while Frenchmen Valentin, the Sochi 2014 bronze medalist, was third with 185 points, followed by Rolland’s 179 points.
With Ferreira and Seaton holding the top two spots with scores of 93.20 and 89.40, the pressure to go big on the final run and claim the crystal globe was enormous. Trying to maximize his total, Blunck ended up under-rotating his third hit and tumbled into the pipe and out of the title race, settling for ninth place in the event and third on the season.
Valentin excited his countrymen with an 89.00, moving him onto the podium and positioning him atop the season standings, but Rolland answered with a big final run of his own, receiving an 89.20 nudge off the podium Valentin and take the overall title.
The Tignes women’s competition was a victory lap in front of a home crowd for France’s Marie Martinod, who had swept the first three spots to hold an insurmountable lead. The competition boiled down to whether Japan’s Ayana Onozuka, who had won the last two season titles, could finish ahead of Team USA’s Annalisa Drew and move into second in the standings.
A 2014 Olympian, Drew brought a slim five-point lead over Onozuka to Tignes, but was unable to match the 86.00 from the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist. A best of 82.00 on her second trip down the pipe forced Drew to settle for fourth place, which pushed her into third in the season standings.
Canada’s Cassie Sharpe, who earned her second world cup win by improving her score each run, finishing with a 90.80. Onozuka was second at 86.00, followed by Martinod’s 84.00.
Team USA took four of the top six places in the men’s season standings. Blunck’s 219 points were one ahead of Yater-Wallace, while Monday’s podium landed Seaton in fifth (182 points) and Ferreira sixth (172 points). Olympic champion David Wise was ninth and Olympic slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy 10th. Four American women placed in the top seven: Drew was third with 225 points, Olympic champion Maddie Bowman was fifth (156 points), Olympic slopestyle silver medalist Devin Logan sixth (141 points) and Brita Sigourney ended up seventh (133 points).
The skiers will close the 2017 season at next week’s world championships, with qualifying March 16 and finals March 18 in Sierra Nevada, Spain.