LECH, Austria — The U.S. Snowboard Team showed why they’re number one in the world on the first day of competition as the newest Olympic sport began its inaugural FIS World Snowboard Championships in Lienz, Austria Wednesday. In the men and women’s halfpipe competition, U.S. riders won five of six possible medals, with the men sweeping the medals platform, and the women earning silver and bronze.
Ross Powers (South Londonderry, Vt.) swept top honors, becoming the first FIS men’s World Halfpipe Champion, over silver-medal teammate Lael Gregory (Eugene, Ore.) and bronze-medalist and U.S. Snowboard team newcomer Rob Kingwill (Jackson, Wyo.).
“I’m happy I won today,” said Powers. “I’m really psyched about my runs. I just had to stick them, and I guess I did. The halfpipe was really good — a lot of work went into it. It’s really great to be the first FIS World Champion. My first run score is definitely the highest score I’ve had this year.”
Several inches on new snow fell Tuesday night, covering the halfpipe with a fresh layer of powder. Course workers were on the hill early Wednesday morning buffing the course for competition. Fourteen men and six women progressed to the two-run, afternoon finals.
Gregory, in eighth-place after the first run of the men’s finals, was nervously waiting in the finish arena after a spectacular second run. “This is torture!” he said, as he watched competitor after competitor come down the halfpipe, none of whom could touch his score until Powers (the last rider of the competition). “I didn’t think I had this tied up at all,” said the 1995 World Cup halfpipe champion. “I didn’t actually figure that I’d end up as well as I did. I was in eighth place after my first finals run, so I was kind-of figuring I wouldn’t do as well as I did. It all came down to the last run — it was all or nothing. And I’m really fortunate I finished up the way I did.”
Kingwill, recently named to the U.S. Snowboard C team, has been travelling with the team since the end of December. “This is only my third major international competition,” said an ecstatic Kingwill. “I really wanted to get a podium here in Lienz because Jackson Hole (Wyoming) is my home, and LIenz is Jackson’s sister city. So this is great.”