Runs were notably conservative today in the US Open halfpipe qualifiers and semifinals. It was all about strategy: Land a solid run with enough trickery to make top twelve in the men and top six in the women, and you’re in tomorrow’s finals. Pull out your big guns and explode in the flat bottom and you may as well go home tonight. Hey, with 20,000 dollars at stake, you’d have a game plan, too.
Gretchen Bleiler was an obvious standout in the women’s event, with an ever-expanding bag of tricks (including Cripplers and frontside sevens) that makes you wonder what’s in store for us when she really throws down. I was looking the other way during Hannah Teter’s second run but she won the qualifiers so I imagine she pulled out the frontside 900. Tricia Byrnes spun big frontside 540s up top and even had enough time in the air to wave to her mom and dad, who’ve been spectators in the past fourteen US Open halfpipe contests.
The crowd fattened up when the men’ s show came on, and no one was bored because guys like Emond Tyler and Halvor Lunn were doing upwards of 20 foot airs. Steve Fischer rocked his token gigantor backside fives off the first hit and followed them up with some mellow 900s. The judges were not disappointed. And Japanese whirlwind Kazuhi Kokubo blew everyone away with the sheer size and length of his hits. All in all, however, it was obvious that the men were putting in just enough effort to make the cut without blowing out or injuring themselves. Tomorrow’ s when the real secret weapons come out. Stay tuned.