It was a little warmer and a bit breezier in the Calgary halfpipe on Saturday as the 2023 Snow Rodeo came to an end after the second of two World Cup events in three days – but the women’s podium had an all-too-familiar feel.
Eileen Gu (CHN) isn’t so much in a different league as on another planet, clinching her second halfpipe victory in as many outings since her competitive return, stomping three runs with three scores in the 90s while nobody else could manage even one.
The men’s halfpipe event – and World Cup crystal globe battle – is shaping up to be a much more open, with Alex Ferreira (USA) putting the disappointment of just missing out on a top-3 on Thursday behind him by claiming the victory with a devastating middle run.
GU LOOKS UNBEATABLE HEADING INTO X GAMES
Despite a solid start from Thursday’s bronze medallist Hanna Faulhaber (USA), a stylish first run from the consistent Karker and smooth opener from China’s Kexin Zhang – keen to make up for missing the podium on Thursday – Gu was a class apart.
She began with an right side 900 buick grab – a grab variation that none of the other women in the field can boast – and finished things off with a left alley-oop 540 mute, and all of it was near-flawless, as we’ve come to expect from the 19-year-old.
With only half the skiers able to put down a clean second run in increasingly challenging conditions, the Stanford freshman seemed to be competing against only herself. She switched things up, starting with a right 900 Buick, followed by a left 900 Japan, right 720 opposite tail and switch left 360 Japan, finishing with an alley-oop flatspin 540 to increase her lead and set up yet another victory lap with a score of 93.50.
Knowing they would have to produce something special to overhaul Gu, Karker and Zhang both fell as they tried to push the limits on their final run, having to settle for second and third respectively. With the pressure off, Gu still managed to end with 91.75, punching the air as she made it two from two in Calgary to move within 60 points of Karker in the World Cup standings.
Karker’s first and best run scored 85.50 and included a right 900 Japan, left 900 Japan, right flair safety, left 720 safety and switch left 540 safety. Zhang put down a right 720 tail, switch left 540 Japan, switch right 360 mule, left 720 and switch right 540 tail to score 81.75.