The sky was gloomy and threatened us with rain all day in the City of Oslo for the start of the third Arctic Challenge. The stadium, Holmen Kollen, was just short of five thousand spectators, but that didn’t stop the roars and cheers after each air that was.
Controversy was in the air with the word of Daniel Franck not riding in the 1/4 pipe event. Word has it that he was saving his knees for the halfpipe event to be held in Hemsedal later on in the week. He was overheard saying that he was not really into the 1/4 pipe because he is more into halfpipe hits rather than a straight on QP hit. Seeing as this was the beginning of the event it seemed like a reasonable decision. Although the local Norwegian kids seemed to be saddened by the fact that one of their heroes wasn’t going to ride in the 1/4 pipe event in the city in front of the whole city, this was soon forgotten when the first of the incredibly lofty airs were let go.
Shaun White was the crowd favorite right off the bat. The 14 year old wonder boy launched easily in the 20-25 foot range with stylish methods and bomb drop Indy’s. The ante was soon upped by Gian Simmen with the smoothest longest held 540 nose grab we have ever seen. The fact that it was in the over 20 foot range really blew minds and that gave the Santa Cruz rider the win.
Not to be out done by outsiders, event co-founder and local ledgend Terje Haakonsen pulled out all stops with a bag of tricks both classic and powerful to really make a good showing for Norway.
The show, however, belonged to the newest Burton rookie from Finland. Heikki Sorsa was determined to soar the highest on this rainy day in Oslo. At 29 feet this is by far the highest jump ever achieved on a completely straight hit QP. Unfortunately, it was not high enough to win the $24,000 gold Oakley watch that was on the line for anyone who could clear 30 feet. Some say he should have gotten the watch anyways but TWS photo editor Embry Rucker said it best, “If there was a bell sitting at 30 feet, then he wouldn’t have won it. ”
Heikki would not go away without a smile on his face. As compensation Oakley gave the Finnish champion an all expense paid, week long trip anywhere in the world. When asked where he is going, he said with a smile “Hawaii!” The kid was stoked. And besides, what in the world would a 19-year-old kid do with a watch worth 24 grand?
Highest air ¿ Heikki Sorsa (Burton)
1. Gian Simmen (Santa Cruz)
2. Steve Gruber (Salomon)
3. Kyle Clancy (Salomon)