<strong>I woke up this morning, and I knew if I wanted to have a chance to go to Sochi, I just needed to win today. It’s definitely cool to finally do an event here (in Park City). … It made me feel more relaxed coming into these events.</strong> – Joss Christensen
PARK CITY — Joss Christensen picked the perfect time — and place — to win his first big event Saturday at the U.S. Grand Prix in Park City.
“I woke up this morning, and I knew if I wanted to have a chance to go to Sochi, I just needed to win today,” said Christensen, who put down two spectacular runs, earning a score of 96.20 and his first major victory on the Grand Prix circuit. “It’s definitely cool to finally do an event here (in Park City). … It made me feel more relaxed coming into these events.”
He said the support of his family and friends actually gave him confidence, and he shocked himself with his gold-medal performance.
“I’m pretty speechless, happy and stoked,” he said.
His childhood friend, Alex Schlopy, won Friday's slopestyle competition, and while he was disappointed to finish in eighth-place, he was thrilled for Christensen.
"I'm just so happy my friend Joss got the win today," Schlopy said. "He's been working so hard. He's always been so good."
Ironically, the two men, who've been friends since they were in pre-school, are tied in the standings and will compete for the coach's discretionary spot.
Gus Kenworthy secured his spot on the U.S. slopestyle team with a second-place finish. His score of 95 points edged Bobby Brown’s 93.20 points.
"I did know (what I needed to do)," Kenworthy said. "And I was stressing about it too much. My buddy, Robin, who I am staying with, was like, 'Dude, stop looking at the points. Stop thinking about it.'" He said the advice helped him relax and enjoy the day, and the result was a guaranteed trip to Sochi, Russia. He was impressed with his good friend and competitor Christensen's winning run.
"Joss Chirstensen just put down one of the best runs I've ever seen in slopestyle, and it's just an honor to be on (the podium) with him."
Brown and Nick Goepper, who didn’t compete this weekend, had already secured their spots on the team.
Goepper was consistently on the podium this season, making his spot on the team secure earlier than most.
In men’s halfpipe, the race was so tight, it wasn’t decided until the final runs of the final competition Saturday night.
Lyman Currier, who finished third Friday night, was one of four athletes in the mix for an automatic nomination to the team, and he said he knew if he wanted a trip to Russia, he needed his best effort.
“I knew I just had to set my run down, hopefully cleaner and bigger than last night, and I could land somewhere near the podium,” the 19-year-old Colorado native said. “I can’t believe I landed on top. I’m so stoked.”
Currier thrilled the crowd of about 5,000 with some of the most impressive amplitude of the night’s intense competition. His first run earned him a 90.20 and first place heading into the second run.
He admitted he didn’t see a lot of room for improvement.
“I went to the top and the only thing I could really do was grab my switch up 1080 better,” he said grinning.
He was able to improve, earning a score of 92.60 on his second run, barely topping Aaron Blanck's 92 points.
He said earning a podium Friday night gave him confidence in the tight race for the team.
“It was crazy nerve-wracking,” he said. “There was definitely a lot of pressure, a lot of butterflies at the top there, but after that first run, they all kind of subsided.”
The women’s halfpipe winner was the only woman who could earn her spot outright, and that was Angeli VanLaanen. Maddie Bowman and Brita Sigourney had already clinched their spots on the team.
Keri Herman, Colorado, and Devin Logan, Park City will represent the U.S. in women’s ski slopestyle.
There are still discretionary spots available, but those will be decided by coaches and U.S. Ski and Snowboard officials in the next few days.