POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 10, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 4:32 a.m. HST, Feb 10, 2014
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia » There was a lot of ugliness out on that supersized Olympic slopestyle course Sunday — crashes, splashes, face plants, even a cracked helmet.
As she so often does, Jamie Anderson made things look beautiful again.
The world’s most consistent rider came through big under a huge amount of pressure — “I was freaking out,” she said — riding clean on the rails and stomping down three high-flying jumps on her second, and make-or-break, trip down the mountain. She scored a 95.25 on that run to make America 2-for-2 in slopestyle’s colorful and treacherous debut on the Olympic stage.
“It’s kind of a big deal,” said the gold medalist, who earlier this winter had conceded she was heading to Russia with some reservations about what the Olympics really stand for. “This is The Event.”
Enni Rukajarvi of Finland won silver and Jenny Jones took bronze to give Britain its first Olympic medal on the snow.
A heady piece of history for Jones, the 33-year-old, one-time ski resort housekeeper from Bristol, who was unapologetic in revealing she prepared for the big day by watching “Downton Abbey” back at her place in the athletes village.
Jones calls Anderson a 23-year-old from South Lake Tahoe, Calif., a “hippie.”
“I think it’s fair to say Jamie marches to the beat of her own drummer,” American coach Mike Jankowski said. “She likes to do things her way out here.”
Much as she wanted to relax while getting ready for her final run, she said it was, indeed, a little disconcerting standing at the top of the mountain, watching rider after rider take a fall. Of the 24 runs in the finals, no fewer than 17 of them included a hand drag, a fall or worse — and that wasn’t counting Austrian Anna Gasser’s failed climb back up the first embankment after she was given the “go” sign a second too soon.
Isabel Derungs of Switzerland fell off a rail and face planted into the snow. Silje Norendal, the Norwegian who handed Anderson one of her few losses two weeks ago at the Winter X Games, fell off the first rail, bobbled on the second, then washed out on her second jump.
Worst of all, Sarka Pancochova of the Czech Republic lost it on the first jump of her second run, the back of her head slamming against the snow. She skittered down the hill, flipping side to side with her legs flopping like a rag doll. Somehow, she got up and rode down the hill under her own power. When she got there, she showed off a pencil-wide crack that ran the length of her helmet.
“Well, it seems broken, but that’s what they are for, right?” she said.
Against that backdrop, and overcast skies, Anderson, who lost her balance and nearly fell on the final jump of her opening run, reached the starting gate for the second.
“I was just visualizing, like, seeing myself already landing and coming down here,” she said. “Just trying to believe.”