Halfpipe: Snowboard World Cup titles go to Asia

In the last halfpipe competition of the 2009 Snowboard FIS World Cup which took place in Valmalenco, Italy, Jiayu Liu (CHN) and Gary Zebrowski (FRA) dominated the competition.

Winner Jiayu Liu.  Copyright: FIS - Oliver KrausIn the ladies’ final, the newly crowned World Cup title winner from China once again impressed with her riding claiming her season’s third victory with 46.4 points. Holly Crawford (AUS, 40.6) came in second. Sarah Conrad (CAN, 38.9) rounded out the podium as third. On the men’s side, Gary Zebrowski celebrated his career’s second World Cup triumph just like 2005 in Tandadalen (SWE) at the World Cup finals. Scoring 48.0 points, the French rider gave no rise to doubts about who rules the roost by relegating Nathan Johnstone (AUS, 42.4) and Xiayoe Zeng (CHN, 41.9) to the second and third rank respectively.

Asia’s World Cup title winners had cleared their Crystal Globes already the last week with Jiayu Liu clinching her career’s first ever title due to 5,100 points earned over the last six months. The Chinese rider was followed by Japan’s Shiho Nakashima (3,320) and Soko Yamaoka (2,270). On the men’s side, Ryoh Aono (JPN) secured his career’s second Crystal Globe with 2,600 points after winning the title in 2007 ahead of Nathan Johnstone (2,310) and Gary Zebrowski (2,159.1).

But today, all eyes were on Jiayu Liu again – just like the most competitions over the last two years. The 19-year-old freestyler put her stamp on the 2009 season by placing five times on the podium in six starts, winning three of them. In addition, Liu also claimed the Gold medals in the 2009 FIS Snowboard World Championships in Gangwon, Korea and at the Universiade in China. No wonder that the rider who had celebrated her World Cup debut in Calgary two years ago by finishing as runner-up was all smiles after the World Cup title ceremony: “It was a very good season and I’m very proud to take home the Crystal Globe.”

But that’s not all as “I worked a lot over the last season but still have to improve a lot.” But today, the spectators along the 130 metres long halfpipe witnessed that Liu’s hard work paid off as her first run in the finals wasn’t to beat by her rivals. Starting with a very high “Frontside Air” and “Backside Air”, she also sticked a “Frontside 540 stale”, “Backside 540 melon”, “Frontside 720 indy” and a final “Cab 360 mute”. “It just went super good. I felt good all day. I’m really happy to have won in this perfect pipe”, said the Chinese rider.

Although Holly Crawford couldn’t ride as she wanted to due to the handling of some longterm consequences of her crash in Cypress about one month ago, the 25-year-old 2009 World Championships Silver medallist wasn’t disappointed with her result after she had thrown in a “Lien Air”, “Japan Air“, “Frontside 540 melon“, “Japan Air“, “Frontside 720 indy“, “Cab 360 mute“ and “Frontside nose“: “I’m pretty happy to close the season with a podium as I still have some problems since Cypress. In addition, I hurt myself in the training yesterday. But I tried to shut it out and get through it.”

Gary Zebrowski had to wait four whole seasons in order to celebrate his career’s second World Cup triumph. But today, it was time again to place on top after the 24-year-old had underlined his ambition to victory in several training and qualifier runs throughout the season but wasn’t able to put it all together in a final run. It seemed that the Frenchman wanted to prove himself that he can do it as he nailed two perfect runs in today’s finals missing the perfect score of 50 points just by 2 for his “Backside Air“, “Frontside 1080 tail“, “Cab 1080 nose“, “Frontside 900 melon“ und “Backside 540 mute“.

“It’s incredible. It finally worked out. It’s perfect that I won here in Valmalenco. I was pushing myself the whole season to finish as first and now it finally worked out. Now I can enjoy the surfing on Tahiti”, said the 2006 Olympian after his career’s fourth World Cup podium.

Nathan Johnstone was in a similar mood as Zebrowski as it seems that the 19-year-old likes the Italian halfpipes. After he had placed second in Bardonecchia this winter he also finished as runner-up in Valmalenco thus celebrating his third podium in his ninth World Cup start. “I love it. Italy brought the good again. I’m so happy right now. I wanted to go out with a good result and I did it!” And he did in an impressive way: A “Cab 720“, “Frontside 900 mute“, “Backside 900 melon“, “Double Grab Air“ a “Backside 720 melon“ to finish his run also bumped the Aussie into second position of the final Halfpipe World Cup ranking: “I’m proud to finish the season as second. I tried to make it to the top-6 so I’m super stoked.”

Thomas Franc in Moskau.  Copyright: FIS - Oliver Kraus
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