Canada's dominance in freestyle skiing continued into Tuesday morning, with two more medals in women's ski slopestyle, including a gold medal to Huntsville, Ontario's Dara Howell. Her teammate Kim Lamarre of Québec City earned the bronze medal.
Even with the gold and bronze medals (bringing Canada's medal total in freestyle skiing to six, including three golds) the day was bittersweet for the Canadian team. Two expected medal favourites, Kaya Turski and Yuki Tsubota, suffered hard falls during the event, and Tsubota needed to be stretchered off the course during the final, missing the landing area of her final jump completely.
The slopestyle course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park includes a rail section at the top of the hill, with three big jumps (named Hot, Cool and Yours after the motto of the games) at the bottom of the course. Riders and skiers needed to generate and maintain speed through the jump section to be able to clear the flat area on the top of the jump and hit the landing area. The course was running slow thanks to slushy conditions Tuesday afternoon, and both Turski and Tsubota came up slightly short.
Turski, a medal favourite, came into the day nursing a mystery illness, and after her first crash on the day was left with a dislocated right shoulder. She still pulled out all the stops for her second qualification run to make the ski slopestyle final. After landing her second jump switch, Turski lost some speed as she spun around to point her skis forward for the final jump, and failed to clear the flat section.
Despite missing the podium during ski slopestyle's debut on the Olympic programme, she sounded optimistic about her finish:
“You know, I’ve done X Games 10 times now,” she said. “This was the next step … definitely more pressure on myself at the Olympics, no doubt. But I can say I was here, at least.
I mean sure, it’s disappointing. I put so much in — I have to believe that this moment doesn’t define who I am, and that’s even written on my jacket — ‘no moment defines me.’ It’s definitely disappointing, I’ve worked so hard, I’ve poured my heart and soul into the last six months. But … I wouldn’t change it. I won the X Games two weeks ago, I wish it was the Olympics … but I’m proud to say I’m an Olympian now, even though I’m probably 22nd out of 22. But you know what? I’ll take it. That’s 22nd in the world.”
For the record, Turski finished 19th, with her 28.00 score on her first run able to place her in front of three competitors in qualification.
Tsubota's injury was a little uglier, as the 20-year-old Whistler resident had to be helped off the course on a stretcher. Tsubota scored a 71.60 on her first final run, good for sixth, but she knew that she had to go all-out to make the podium. To her credit, Tsubota tried to leave everything out on the field, stretching for big air even though she was losing speed heading up to her final jump:
This crash certainly looked worse, as a helpless Tsubota fell down the mountain seemingly motionless, but initial reports were fairly optimistic for her condition. CBC's overnight anchors, Andrew Chang and Andi Petrillo, relayed information from Twitter that Tsubota possibly had a facial injury—perhaps a fractured jaw—which is certainly better than what it could have been.
The crashes do mar the otherwise excellent day on the slopes for the Canadian team, though we'll assume when Tsubota opens up, she'll be just as positive as teammate Turski was on Twitter in the minutes following her disappointing run:
Well World.... I gave it my best shot. I truly did...... Thank you for all the amazing support. Everyone. Love you ☺️
— Kaya Turski (@kayaturski) February 11, 2014
Wow!!! @DaraHowell you just won the Olympics! Proud of you kid. You skied amazing. Hats off to my very talented Canadian teammate