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Air sickness – Snowboarders impressive at Heavenly showdown

Jenifer Ragland

The 1997 Vans World Championships of Snowboarding Big Air Invitational at Heavenly Ski Resort brought hundreds of awe-stricken onlookers and made two U.S. competitors $4,000 richer.

Barrett Christy took first place in the women’s competition with a backside 360 and Kevin Jones won in the men’s division with a fakie 720.

“This is great,” Christy said after the winners were announced. “The hardest aspect was probably the landing. It was really steep and you would hit it at the last minute and just explode.”

Jones, who was in the lead after the two qualifying rounds, stayed there through the tough final run to come in first.

“Conditions were good and everything was just right on,” he said. “I’m stoked.”

Both riders were awarded gold plaques and $4,000 checks at an awards ceremony Saturday.

“To tell you the truth, I’m saving my money,” Christy said. “I’m going to buy a house someday.”

After two qualifying rounds with 16 men and eight women, the top four men and top four women competed in a final run. As the sun was going down and the landing becoming harder for the men’s competition, judges decided to allow them two runs, taking the best score as the final.

Jaime MacLeod of the U.S. came in second ($2,000) for the women, and Natasza Zurek of Canada took third ($1,000).

For the men, Finland’s Sebu Kuhlberg took second and Dave Lee came in third.

Jimmy Halopoff, the only local Big Air competitor, made it to the finals and came in fourth place.

Still, being from South Lake Tahoe, he did win the support of the crowd, who cheered him on before and after every run.

One lucky onlooker even took home a brand new Two-Tone snowboard for correctly answering a trivia question about Halopoff.

Aside from the rigorous competition, the event was certainly an air show. Throughout the afternoon, spectators witnessed amazing, crowd-pleasing tricks like double backflip corkscrews and huge 900-degree spins.

The 1997 Vans Championships of Snowboarding included events all week at both Heavenly and Sierra at Tahoe ski resorts. The best riders from all over the globe came to South Lake Tahoe to compete for the $154,000 cash purse.


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