French Riders Win FIS Junior World Halfpipe Championships

Wind, rain, fog, and kinks couldn’t stop the French duo of Gary Zebrowski and Sophie Rodriguez from sweeping the halfpipe at the FIS Junior World Championships held Friday, February 13 in the Czech Republic. The two impressed judges, a large crowd of Czech locals (and Uber-Euro onlookers braving the conditions) enough for France to take home both gold medals. The podium spots were rounded out with Finns Markus Mallin and Sami Saarenpaa on the men’s side and Paulina Ligocka of Poland and Halley Van Nuyen of Canada for the ladies.

Solid runs of large straight airs and a couple of tech tricks seemed to be the right stuff for the international judging crew of six hailing from Australia, Austria, Spain, Sweden, Finland, and Poland. Zebrowski started his run in the five-hit pipe with two of the biggest straight airs of the day and linked a couple of 720 to 360 combos to finish off. Rodriguez won with a 540 to straight airs to 360/pop tart combo.

Three Americans; Michael Goldschmidt, Louie Vito, and Elena Hight made the final of 10 men and 6 women, with Goldschmidt the closest to the podium finishing -.2 out of third place. There was definitely an air of Bush-haters eager to see the Americans defeated after the U.S. Junior Team had nearly swept the halfpipe the past two years with Steven Fisher and Hannah Teter winning the Junior Worlds in Finland in ’02 and Lindsey Jacobellis taking the women’s gold and Tyler Emond taking the men’s silver in Italy in ’03. And they were delighted as their countrymen stood on the podium while Queen’s “We Are the Champions”, the extended version, blasted from the speakers … for real.

Living in an eternal raining, blowing, fogging, dreary, dumpy, gray cloud without a gondola, high-speed quad, or even a chairlift or good meal in sight isn’t exactly the way anyone wants to spend a week of snowboarding–or a week of anything. But the 2004 FIS Junior World Championships of Snowboarding in Klinovec, Czech Republic proved that fun will be had one way or another. After all, snow shralping is fun every which way around the world.