Natasza Zurek is two for two. After coming off a big win at the Vans Triple Crown halfpipe event two weeks ago, she again won a big contest, but this time there were other even bigger implications as she took the X-Nix Countdown To the Gold Nokia Snowboard FIS World Cup at Park City, Utah. Not only will she gain valuable points to qualify for the Olympics, she also edged out Shannon Dunn, who had got the best of her earlier this season at the X Games.
It was business as usual for the women’s competitors with the three podium regulars again showing up in top form. Zurek put together back-to-back inverted tricks including the Crippler to McTwist combination that she’s been working on all season in her first final run. That run scored a 46.2, and was enough for the win as the other five competitors could only come close, but not top, Zurek’s score.
“It feels pretty rad winning and I’m pretty relieved because I was trying to get a quota spot for the Olympics,” says Zurek. “Now I probably got one and I’ll get to go to the Olympics for Canada.”
Interestingly, she’s excited to go to the Olympics, but doesn’t want to win there. “I want to win the Silver or Bronze because if you win the Gold there’s too much media harassment and you’d be a national hero and I don’t want that. I want to be a snowboard hero but not a national hero. Now I’m going freeriding in Tahoe for about a week.”
Sliding in second place was Stine Brun Kjeldass, with a combination of frontside 720 to 360 to frontside 540. Following in third place was Shannon Dunn, who was doing one of her few contests of the season and coming off an X Games win where she edged out Zurek. Like Zurek, she also stuck a back-to-back inverted combination today, but Dunn’s included a 540 to 720, and her amplitude on the straight airs wasn’t as high.
Dunn was happy with her finish because she too picked up valuable FIS points to get back to the Games. “It was so much fun and I had a great time today,” she says. “The pipe was perfect and it was a great sunny day. I’m really glad that I could ride here before the Olympics. I want to go back because it’d be so fun and all my family will be able to come and watch.”
The rising level of competition will make it tough for Dunn to get that spot. “Everyone is riding super good. But I’ve just got to get on my game and get in the pipe a little more.”
Rounding out the field of six finalists were Fabienne Reuteler, Dominique Vallee, and Michelle Taggart, in that order. Approximately 45 women started the day, with competitors from all over the world entered. After the first run, the top three scorers qualified into the finals, and the next twelve highest placers got a second run. Of those twelve, only three more qualified into the finals.
The overall level of women riders was raised even higher, as a number of international athletes showed up, including Japanese, Italians, Finns, Sweds, French, Germans, and even a New Zealander.
Women’s Pipe Finals
1. Natasza Zurek
2. Stine Brun Kjeldass
3. Shannon Dunn
4. Fabienne Reuteler
5. Dominique Vallee
6. Michelle Taggart