Skiing • Fall during halfpipe ski finals Saturday casts shadow over majestic day.
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Park City • Torin Yater-Wallace does not watch his competitors take their runs.
The 17-year-old American freeskiing phenom who finished second in Saturday's U.S. Grand Prix halfpipe skiing finals said watching opponents soar through the air doing the same kind of gravity-defying spins, flips and grabs scares him.
So when Canadian skier Simon d'Artois fell back onto the ice during his first run, the back of his head slapping onto the Park City Mountain Resort's 22-foot Eagle Superpipe, the adoring crowd soaking in a marvelous February bluebird afternoon suddenly fell silent.
It was an all-too-familiar moment, considering Canadian freeskiing pioneer Sarah Burke died from injuries suffered in a training fall in the Eagle Superpipe in Jan. 2012.
But as he was being skied out, d'Artois gave the crowd some brief assurance, throwing up a "rock on" sign as the spectators roared.
"When you see something like that and see someone hit their head pretty hard, it's pretty mind-boggling," said Yater-Wallace, shaking his head. "It really makes you think."
D'Artois immediately was attended to by the PCMR ski patrol medical staff, was examined and taken out on a sled before being transported by helicopter to University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.
"It sounds like he has suffered a concussion," said Kelley Korbin, manager of media relations for the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, adding his CT scan was normal. "It sounds like he blacked out for like 10 seconds, but there isn't any further concerns at this point."
Korbin added that d'Artois is "expected to make a full recovery," but will remain in the hospital overnight.
American Maddie Bowman, who won Winter X Games gold in the SuperPipe event in Aspen, Colo., a few weeks ago, won the women's halfpipe ski finals with a first run of 85.2. She said the perfect weather played a part in many of the athletes flying their highest and attempting the toughest of tricks in their arsenals.
"I think we just feel more comfortable," said Bowan, who also was crowned the U.S. national champion. "We're not as afraid to throw those bigger tricks. … The vibe is better, and I think everyone is just having a good time. Who doesn't like to ski in the sun?"
American David Wise had the best run of the day, throwing in his routine of back-to-back-to-back double cork 1,260s, the same cluster of tricks that has secured him consecutive X Games SuperPipe gold.
"It's kind of my statement, banner run for the year," he said. "It's my way of saying, 'This is what I like about skiing.' "
Wise's first run of 93.8 kept him alone in first place, despite sliding out in his second run. Yater-Wallace's second run featured five of the best flips and twists he has, but the scoring from the judges came up just short. He finished with a 93.6, a few slivers behind his teammate.
Traditionally one of the final skiers to shoot down the pipe, Wise, who also won a national title, had to watch nervously from the bottom of the hill as five more competitors had a chance to topple his first-round 93.8.
"I had to watch all the best guys in the world drop in after me," he said.
But he withstood the gauntlet to earn yet another gold.
U.S. Grand Prix halfpipe ski finals
Men's halfpipe ski finals
1. David Wise USA (93.8)
2. Torin Yater-Wallace USA (93.6)
3. Kevin Rolland FRA (93.0)
Women's halfpipe ski finals
1. Maddie Bowman USA (85.2)
2. Ayana Onozuka JPN (84.4)
3. Virgine Faivre SUI (82.8)