PARK CITY, Utah -- Brita Sigourney proved that age is just a number – and that having fun will get you far – Saturday afternoon in the Park City Mountain halfpipe.
The 29-year-old won bronze in women’s halfpipe skiing, for her first worlds medal in her third attempt, at the FIS Snowboard, Freestyle Ski and Freeski World Championships with a score of 90.60 on her first of three runs that put her in second after that run and would hold up for a spot on the podium.
“I was happy to put my first run down, that’s always a pressure reliever,” Sigourney said. “I was hoping to better it, but I was pretty consistent there, so I’m just happy to have put down two good runs and to be skiing well.”
Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru – at 16 years of age – won gold with a 95.00 on her third run, claiming her country’s first-ever world championship medal in freestyle skiing or snowboarding, while Canadian Cassie Sharpe, the 2018 Olympic champion, took silver with a first-run score of 94.40.
Two-time Olympian Sigourney was the oldest competitor in the 17-woman qualification field, and of the eight women in the final only two athletes are within five years of Sigourney’s age: 26-year-old Sharpe and 25-year-old Maddie Bowman, Sigourney’s U.S. teammate and the 2014 Olympic champion who placed sixth at worlds.
Sildaru, on the other hand, represents the newer generation of freeskiers that is pushing Sigourney – and has pushed skiers older than Sigourney into retirement. She was one of the three teenagers in the final, joined by 15-year-old Fanghui Li and 16-year-old Zhang Kexin, both of China.
The Estonian, who credits her success with skiing with her brother, has been dominating the sport for the past few years, starting with when she won X Games Aspen gold at age 13 and became the youngest Winter X Games gold medalist ever. She has since won a whopping seven X Games medals – three golds, three silvers and a bronze – in superpipe, slopestyle and big air.
“It is crazy to be so much older than Kelly, but it’s amazing to see how much she’s pushing the sport,” Sigourney said. “Kelly is so young and she’s so good for her age. It is crazy.
“I think I’m the oldest one in the field now, but that wasn’t the case last year… I’ve been competing against girls older than me for the last 10 years and all of a sudden they’re all gone and I’m the lone one left.”
Age – and the accompanying experience – seem to have aided Sigourney, though, as she has blossomed over the past year and hit her stride in the sport later in her career than most freeskiers.
The Park City resident is riding a wave of success that includes seven podiums at her last nine contests, dating back to Jan. 12, 2018.
Sigourney credits her success with enjoying the fun, and with a renewed self-confidence that came from earning bronze at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
“I’m stoked, for sure. I’ve been riding the wave since the Olympics,” Sigourney explained, “and my confidence is still pretty high…
“I think it’s honestly just self-confidence and feeling good, and I’m having a lot of fun and not really trying to put pressure on myself. I’m at a point in my career where I’ve been doing it for so long that I’m just trying to enjoy it and I think it’s really showing in my skiing.
The only two times Sigourney has not reached the podium over the past 13 months are December’s Dew Tour and last month’s X Games. Sigourney was fourth at both.
“Fourth is kind of a rough spot to be because you’re so close to the podium but you don’t get any of that attention,” Sigourney said. “It feels really good to be back on there.”
She explained that she has spent more time skiing powder and less time in the halfpipe this season, relaxing and enjoying her recent success.
“I felt like I paid for it at those two events and I can’t say it wasn’t worth it, but I’m happy to be back in my groove and back on the podium in the halfpipe.”
Aside from winning a medal, Sigourney’s favorite part of worlds has been competing at home with her friends and family in the crowd to cheer for her – and being able to sleep in her own bed each night.
Hailing from Carmel, California, Sigourney moved to Park City eight years ago, after being named to the first U.S. freeskiing team as the sport prepared for its debut at the 2014 Games. Sigourney was excited to experience all that U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Center of Excellence offers.
“I wanted to have that opportunity to train at the gym and have the support of the staff,” she recalled. “I’ve loved it. I fell in love with the community and made a bunch of friends – it’s just great to be based out of here.”
Sigourney also competed at worlds the last time it was held in Park City, in 2011 when she finished sixth. She was ninth at the 2017 worlds before finally reaching the podium this year.
As for whether she’ll compete at the 2021 world championships or the 2022 Olympic Winter Games – both slated to be held in China – Sigourney is undecided.
“Right now I’m on the two-year plan, so I’m going to do at least next year and then I’ll reevaluate after that, but it could definitely happen,” Sigourney said of the Beijing Games in 2022. “Four years is a really long time to wait, you never know what’ll happen in that timeframe, but as long as I stay healthy I’d love to go to another Olympics; it’s a great experience.”