Liu and Aono take first Asian gold medals in the halfpipe

With Jiayu Liu (CHN) and Ryoh Aono (JPN) two of the main aspirants for Gold grabbed the Halfpipe title at the 2009 FIS Snowboard World Championships Gangwon, Korea.

Der neue Weltmeister Aono.  Foto: fotograferen.netJiayu Liu nailed it in the second run of the ladies’ final after she had bailed her first on. With 43.5 points, the shooting star relegated Holly Crawford (AUS, 39.6) and Paulina Ligocki (POL, 38.5) to the second and third rank respectively.

On the men’s side, Aono simply confirmed his top performances of the training and qualifying sessions. The 18-year-old rider with an indoor background threw in the best runs in both heats earning 47.3 points to win Gold. Jeff Batchelor (CAN, 44.4) and Mathieu Crepel (FRA, 43.3) rounded out the podium as second and third so the top-3 consisted of those riders who had won all four Halfpipe World Cups in the same pipe before.

But it was last year’s winner of the Halfpipe World Cup in the Hyundai Sungwoo resort who coped best with the icy and windy weather conditions. Aono started with a huge Stalefish followed by a Backside 540 into back-to-back 1080’s and back-to-back 900’s while adding strong grabs to all of his rotations. This, plus his massive air time, made him the deserved new World Champion, the first one ever for Japan, after two years ago Kazuhiro Kokubo had missed the Gold medal finishing as runner-up. “I’m very proud of this win. I was here to take this title and I did it by giving my best in a strong competitor field.”

Despite his top riding, Aono also benefited from some mistakes his opponents made while trying to attack the top spot. One of them was former title holder Mathieu Crepel. “Of course I tried it but messed up my Backside 900. I had no pressure as it was clear that I had a podium spot.” Despite he couldn’t keep hold on the first of his two 2007 titles he was “pretty stoked of making another podium after Arosa. Now, my goal is to defend the Big Air title tomorrow:”

While Crepel, Koski (FIN), Zebrowski (FRA) or Haller (SUI) failed to build up some pressure on Aono, Jeff Batchelor was the one who was able to do way better than in his first run where he missed the last hit – a fact which surprised the 20-year-old who was all smiles in the finish area: “It’s been a long journey. I was mangled from the hips down and could only compete with pain killers after some flat landings in the training. I can’t believe this.”

Like Ryoh Aono, Jiayu Liu had won the last World Cup in Gujo before going to Korea to compete in the World Championships. And like her Japanese pendant the 18-year-old took home Gold being the first Asian to do so at a major event making herself a late present twelve days after her birthday. “I’m so proud to win the World Championships. The organising committee provided a perfect pipe. I gave it all after I put myself under pressure with a bad first run.”

But other than Ryoh, the Chinese rider had to wait for Holly Crawford who had been in the lead after the first run and then pulled out the hardest trick of the day with a Frontside 900 but wasn’t able to put it all together in the end of her run: “I had to try everything but the pipe was getting faster. However, I had a lot of fun.” Also third ranked Paulina Ligocka was more than pleased after getting another Bronze like 2007 in Arosa: “I’m super stoked. I can’t believe it. I was so nervous after my bad first run and luckily was able to land my second.”

 

Final in Gangwon.  Copyright: FIS - Oliver Kraus
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