2002 Olympic gold medalist and three-time US Open halfpipe champion Kelly Clark took charge at today’s women’s semi-finals halfpipe event, easily qualifying first for finals with huge airs and even bigger style. In the men’s halfpipe semi-final, the Finnish riders stole the show with Markus Malin, Risto Mattila and Antti Autti qualifying in the top three spots respectively.
A Swatch TTR SIX(6) STAR Event, the Burton European Open brings together many of the world’s top riders to compete for fame, fortune and, new this year, two brand-new Suzuki Grand Vitara Freeride cars to the best overall female and male rider.
The women took flight first in the BEO halfpipe semi-finals, with 21 ladies competing for just eight spots in Friday’s final competition. Kelly Clark (USA) set the bar high after her first run, which started with a huge frontside air to a huge backside air, a frontside 540 indie, huge mute, frontside 720 mute and finishing with an air-to-fakie tail grab. Kelly has been loving Laax’s halfpipe since she arrived for practice yesterday where she said she had one of her best runs all season. The women’s finals is fully stacked with notable riders, including 2006 Olympic gold medallist Hannah Teter, 2007 BGOS and Swatch TTR Tour Champion Torah Bright (AUS), Clair Bidez (USA), 2006 Women’s TTR Tour Champion Cheryl Maas (NED), Linn Haug (NOR) and two Swiss locals Manuela Laura Pesko and Sina Candrian.
The stakes were high in the men’s halfpipe semi-finals, with 42 riders competing for just 16 spots and big names like Shaun White (USA), Risto Mattila (FIN), Kevin Pearce (USA), Mason Aguirre (USA), Markus Keller (SUI), Antti Autti (FIN) and current TTR Tour leader Andy Finch (USA) all giving it their best shot. The Finnish riders dominated the semi-finals from the beginning with Risto taking the top spot after the first runs. But fellow Finn, Markus Malin, out-rode Risto in run 2, earning the highest score in semi-finals with a backside air, frontside rodeo 720, Cab 1080, frontside mute, backside 900 mute and an air-to-fakie tail grab.
Shaun White shocked his fellow shredders, the judges and himself when he fell on the second hit of his first run, making it imperative that he step it up in his second run in order to compete in the finals. In classic Shaun style, he easily pulled out a qualifying run, putting down some solid combos including a backside 9, frontside 7 and a Cab 1080. Swiss ‘style master’ and rider favorite Nicolas Müller gave the crowd a treat with a brilliant method air, reminiscent of Terje Haakonsen.
After six days of competitions, it’s finally time for the main events – the BEO slopestyle finals tomorrow and the halfpipe finals on Friday. All riders who have made it in to the BEO finals will earn valuable points for both the Burton Global Open Series standings, which offers $100,000 USD to each male and female series champion, and the Swatch TTR Ranking, which pays out $50,000 to the top-ranked male and female rider at the end of the season