Bower, who was second in a big air exhibition a week earlier at the Chevy S-10 U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix in Copper Mountain, Colo., opted to change his entire halfpipe routine for the event and it paid off. Stacey, like Bower, used consistency through qualifying the three finals runs to clinch the title.
Stacey qualified in second behind French rider Doriane Vidal in morning trials. In the finals, Vidal put down the run to beat with a 41.0 in the first run, while Stacey scored a 37.5. In the final run, Stacey took a pathway of perfection, scoring 41.9 to overtake the French rider for the gold in the best of two runs format. Anna Hellman of Sweden was third, while American Lynn Ott (Bend, OR) finished 15th.
“I didn’t really change anything too much this week,” said the 18-year old Stacey. “I just finally put it together and stuck it when it counted.
“I did about three or four straight airs and then a 540. I usually do a seven (720) at the bottom but I did two straight airs because I knew I could stick it — I wanted to do something I knew I could pull off,” she said.
On the men’s side, the U.S. came into the finals with what seemed to be a great opportunity for multiple medals. Tommy Czeschin (Crowley Lake, CA) led after the qualifications, followed by Zach Horwitz (Carbondale, CO) and Bower — all three qualifying out of the first of two qualifying runs. Ultimately 10 men advanced to the finals.
In the finals, though, Czeschin had trouble landing one of his 720′s and narrowly missed qualifying for the super finals, finishing sixth.
In the super finals, Bower scored a 44.0 on his first run to overtake Swede Fredrik Sterner in the best of two runs, and held onto that lead through the end. Timo Aho of Finland was third while Horwitz had trouble on both runs and missed the medals finishing fifth.
“I had no specific goals coming in, just to ride as well as I could,” Bower said. “I really don’t have much in the past since I was second in the Utah Winter Games. Last year I was excited when I made it to a finals. But it feels different now.
“I changed my routine completely going in. It’s a combination of things but I was much more comfortable. I had a good feeling. I just felt very comfortable today.”
Bower will have a homecoming of sorts on Feb. 5 when he returns for a snowboard World Cup at Park City Mountain Resort, where he started riding at age 11 — even switching his father, a former Olympic nordic combined skier, over to snowboarding.
“I’m actually not surprised at all with the results,” said U.S. Halfpipe Coach Heath Van Aken. “Kim’s been riding good and we’ve known that Ricky had it but he just hadn’t put it together. It’s too bad that Tommy (Czeschin) didn’t quite make it and that Zach (Horwitz) fell coming to the finish or he could have been second or third.
“I’m just so very happy for Ricky,” added Van Aken. “He works so hard and he’s a great guy. He really deserves this for what he’s put into it. He puts two inverts right at the start — a Crippler and a Michealchuck — I mean, those are both hard tricks and putting them together is really tough.”
Action continues in Berchtesgaden Sunday with a snowboard cross competition.