Jamie Anderson becomes back-to-back gold medalist in snowboard slopestyle
Jamie Anderson has successfully defended her Olympic gold medal in women's snowboard slopestyle.
With a score of 83.00 on her first run, Anderson won the contest on a day where athletes were competing more against the weather than against each other.
Due to high winds, Sunday's qualifying round was cancelled, and the entire field moved straight into Monday's final. As a result of the increased field size, the format for the final was adjusted from a three-run format to a two-run format.
As if the two-run format didn't create enough pressure, the riders also had to deal with challenging weather conditions. More wind forced a 75-minute delay, and once the contest eventually got underway, it proved to be a factor as the athletes found it difficult to put down runs.
On the first set of runs, only about a handful of the 26 riders in the final were able to land a full run, and those that did had to dial things back. When it was her turn, Anderson landed a backside 540 on the first jump and a frontside 720 on the last jump, but in between, she ran into trouble on what was supposed to be a cab double cork 900.
"I wanted to do a double 9 on my first run and I went for it and realised I wasn’t going to clear the jumps," she said. "Somehow I connected with my lion power and found feet."
Anderson was able to adjust on the fly and stop her rotation. That enabled her to land her run, and after that, she moved into the lead.
That score held up, as windy conditions persisted throughout the second set of runs and continued to cause trouble.
Anderson's victory comes one day after 17-year-old Red Gerard won a gold medal for the United States in men's slopestyle. That duo has accounted for Team USA's first two gold medals of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
It also continues a streak of U.S. successs in slopestyle snowboarding. Anderson and Sage Kotsenburg won the gold medals for the inaugural Olympic slopestyle contest four years ago, so the U.S. has now won all four gold medals in this event.
Anderson also made history by becoming the first female snowboarder to win two Olympic gold medals. She's now tied with four other athletes for most gold medals all-time in snowboarding, and she will have a chance for a third gold medal later this month in the big air competition.
"I’m feeling so happy," Anderson said afterward. "I've gone through so much this last year just preparing for the Games and defending the gold is definitely not an easy position to be in."
At the Sochi Olympics, Anderson was the clear-cut favorite. But in the last four years, a lot of riders emerged with progressive new tricks, forcing Anderson to adapt and progress even further than she originally thought possible. That experience made the impact of winning Olympic gold even greater.
"Just the last couple of years trying to learn tricks and having a handful of injuries and fear and feeling overwhelmed, there's so much to process," she said. "This season alone we had all our Olympic qualifiers, so it was really energetically draining."
Austria's Anna Gasser and Canada's Spencer O'Brien were among the medal favorites in this event, but neither was able to put down a full run amid challenging conditions. It was the same story with dark horse contenders like Japan's Reira Iwabuchi.
That left podium spots wide-open for the taking.
Several of Anderson's U.S. teammates were expected to contend for a medal, but the brutal wind conditions proved too much to overcome for them as well. Julia Marino fell on both of her runs and finished 11th, while Hailey Langland's landed run was only enough for sixth.
Jessika Jenson, the other member of the U.S. Olympic team, sat in a medal position for a while after her first run, but was eventually knocked down to fifth as the contest progressed.
In the end, the silver medal went to Canada's Laurie Blouin, a 21-year-old who frequently trains with Marino.
And the bronze medal went to Finland's Enni Rukarvi. For Rukajarvi, it was her second Olympic medal — she previously won bronze in Sochi.
The decision to run the contest proved to be controversial. Afterward, some riders questioned whether it should have been postponed.
"I don't think it was a fair competition and I'm a little disappointed in the organisation that they pulled through with it," Gasser said.
The Olympics aren't over for the slopestyle snowboarders. They're all eligible to also compete in big air, a new event to the Olympic program.
Women's big air qualifying gets underway next Sunday night (U.S. time).
Gold: Jamie Anderson (USA), 83.00
Silver: Laurie Blouin (CAN), 76.33
Bronze: Enni Rukajarvi (FIN), 75.38
4. Silje Norendal (NOR), 73.91
5. Jessika Jenson (USA), 72.26
6. Hailey Langland (USA), 71.80
7. Sina Candrian (SUI), 66.35
8. Sofya Fedorova (OAR), 65.73
9. Yuka Fujimori (JPN), 63.73
10. Elea Koenz (SUI), 59.00
11. Julia Marino (USA), 55.85
12. Asami Hirono (JPN), 49.80
NBCOlympics.com will be streaming every round of every competition live online. Here's how to watch all upcoming live streams for snowboard halfpipe.
Women's Halfpipe Qualifying: Sun 2/11, 11:30 p.m. ET
Women's Halfpipe Final: Mon 2/12, 8:00 p.m. ET
Men's Halfpipe Qualifying: Mon 2/12, 11:00 p.m. ET
Men's Halfpipe Final: Tues 2/13, 8:30 p.m. ET