Eliassen continues to soar above the rest
ASPEN, Colo. – Grete Eliassen’s salmon-colored ski suit made her stand out during a snowy women’s superpipe competition Tuesday afternoon. But not as much as her amplitude.
Eliassen, who lives in Utah and is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Norway, soared out of the pipe on multiple hits during the 45-minute jam session, and walked away with gold for the second straight year.
She won the inaugural skiing superpipe competition at Winter X Games Nine.
Sarah Burke of Squamish, British Columbia, took silver for the second straight year. France’s Marie Martinod-Routin claimed bronze.
“We were looking at the weather channel online and it said there was a 90 percent chance of snow. It should’ve been 100,” said Eliassen, a student at the University of Utah. “My crew really helped me. Boosting higher was the plan.”
Many of her fellow competitors struggled to maintain speed and spot their landings during heavy snow and flat light, but Eliassen was consistent, deciding early on to stick with style over technicality. While Burke attempted 900’s on each of her runs down the pipe, Eliassen tried only one, and was unsuccessful.
Eliassen, who won the super-G junior world championship as a member of the Norwegian national Alpine team when she was 16, had a comfortable advantage after three runs, according to the consensus of the judges, who did not release scores. Burke and the rest of the 10-skier field could do little to close the gap as conditions deteriorated.
“It was a junk show out there, and maybe I needed better wax or something,” said Burke, who won last week’s U.S. Freesking Open pipe competition in Vail. “It was tough to put together the run I was looking for. I saw a couple of Grete’s runs, and she looked so nice and solid.”
Eliassen, 19, who lived in Norway for seven years but speaks without an accent now, said she decided to take a different route and pursue freeskiing because racing commanded the bulk of her time. The change has yielded impressive results. In 2005 alone, Eliassen took top honors at the X Games superpipe, the U.S. Open slopestyle and the Jon Olsson Invitational in Sweden.
She has competed for just two years, but Eliassen continues to display skills that impress her peers, male and female alike. Some male competitors took time out from preparation for the Tuesday night’s superpipe finals to watch Eliassen.
Kristi Leskinen, last year’s bronze medalist who finished fourth on Tuesday, said she looks forward to doing away with the jam format in favor of a best-of-three. The current system takes the pressure off riders, who, in turn, are not pushed to take as many chances. Because athletes are constantly in a rush to complete as many runs as possible, the Uniontown, Penn., native said she didn’t watch Eliassen or the other riders and could not gauge her position.
Showcasing the talents of female skiers in primetime (they competed in front of few fans Tuesday) would add a much-needed boost to the popularity of the sport, Eliassen said.
“It’s cool to be in the spotlight,” Eliassen said. “In this format, you miss out on the glory.”
Sarah Burke flies out of the halfpipe in the thickly falling snow Tuesday during the women’s superpipe final at Winter X Games 10 at Buttermilk. (Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily)
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