New Zealand's Zoi Sadowski-Synnott ascended the throne in women's slopestyle Sunday, knocking off two-time defending gold medalist Jamie Anderson of the U.S. who finished ninth. Anderson's teammate Julia Marino captured silver for Team USA's first medal of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Sadowski-Synnott, 20, hit a huge backside 1080 on the final jump of her last run to clinch the victory. The two-time world champion and 2018 Olympic big air bronze medalist cheered with fellow competitors after her winning score of 92.88 was announced. Her gold is New Zealand's first-ever at the Winter Games.
"I tried to think about it last night what it would mean if I managed to land my run and come away with gold, and honestly it feels unreal," Sadowski-Synnott said. "I’m just super proud of where my snowboarding’s come in the last four years and super proud to be Kiwi and show the world what Kiwis are made of."'
Last month she claimed both slopestyle and big air titles at the X Games and became the first woman to land back-to-back double cork 1080s in a slopestyle run. Her 2018 big air bronze, won at age 16 with a double wildcat and switch backside 900, was New Zealand's first medal at the Winter Olympics since 1992.
Julia Marino earns U.S. its first medal of 2022 Winter Olympics
Westport, Connecticut, native Marino, who finished 11th at the last Winter Games, put together the run of her career in the second round to jump into first place. The East Coaster and sixth-best qualifier into the final landed a perfect cab double underflip 900 off "The Matrix" and ended with a frontside double cork 1080 on the last hit.
"It’s honestly hard right now [to put into words], there’s just so much emotion," she said. "Right now it’s just pure excitement and happiness for everything, it was a great day – the weather was perfect, the course was perfect, the girls were riding well, couldn’t have asked for better finals."
Earlier, the 24-year-old fell on a big 900 attempt on her first run off one of the "Twisted Sisters" skew jumps, but redeemed herself in Run 2 by stomping the rotation on her first jump. She produced a solid Run 3 but fell on a double 1080 attempt, and led the field up until Sadowski-Synnott's competition-ending run.
"Julia [Marino] did an absolutely amazing run," Sadowski-Synnott said. "I mustered up everything I had in me to pull off that last jump, and it came off."
The New Englander, known as "Jules," made a name for herself in February 2016 when she stepped in for an injured teammate and won a big air World Cup contest at Boston's Fenway Park. She grew up in Westport, Connecticut, and was a solid high school soccer player before deciding to focus on snowboarding.
Now based in Quebec, Canada, Marino built a snow park in her backyard during the onset of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with boyfriend Jeremy Langevin. The park, known as "The Rail Garden," features rails, flattened out parts of the terrain and even a rope tow.
Jamie Anderson places ninth, missing Olympic podium for first time
Anderson's attempt to three-peat didn't go as planned. The 31-year-old, entering the final as the fifth-best qualifier, fell on two of her runs and was knocked off line on a quarterpipe hit in the other.
She fell early on her first run trying a switch 360 off the "Shred Shed," then in her second run hit a slow-rotating frontside 720 on the opening jump before opting to use one of "The Matrix" section's quarterpipes. She got stuck, only getting around a 360 out of what appeared to be a Rodeo 540 attempt.
Anderson was clean through the rail section on her third and final run but had an uncharacteristic bounce landing off the left-side "Twisted Sisters" jump as she tried to throw down a double 1080. She could be heard saying "not this time" at the bottom as she hugged her competitors.
The 2018 Olympic big air silver medalist has another chance to earn a medal in that event in about a week. Qualifying begins Feb. 14, the evening of Feb. 13 in the Eastern U.S.
Australia's Tess Coady finds redemption with bronze; and more
Reigning world bronze medalist Tess Coady took bronze in her Olympic debut. The Australian tore her ACL in practice during the PyeongChang Games and never competed in qualifying. She improved her Run 1 score in Round 3 by setting down with precision a frontside double cork 1080 with a late hip whip.
“This last four years have been so insane for me, but in the best possible way," she said. "It was so hard, being on the sidelines and watching everyone progress, but it got me so motivated to work hard and get back and get better and catch up to all the girls."
Laurie Blouin of Canada, the 2018 silver medalist, took fourth place by landing a frontside double 1080 on her third run. Next was Japan's Reira Iwabuchi, who was 16 when she finished 14th at the 2018 Games, putting down one of the most technical combinations of the competition on Run 2 with two 900s and a 1080.
Austria's Anna Gasser was sixth but could've easily ended up on the podium or as the winner. She fell on a big backside double cork 1080 attempt on Run 1, fell again in Run 2 with too much speed and then barely stayed on her feet with a sketchy frontside double underflip 900 after a giant backside double 1080 on Run 3.
Hailey Langland of the U.S. finished 11th after some unlucky breaks. She over-rotated a frontside 720 attempt off the skew jumps on Run 1, leaned on her heels landing a 900 off the first jump on Run 2 and then leaned too far on her toes coming down on a frontside 720 on Run 3.