Canadian freestyle skier Cassie Sharpe wins Olympic gold in women's halfpipe

Cassie Sharpe, from Comox, B.C., finished with a score of 95.80 on a cool, sunny morning at Phoenix Park.

Cassie Sharpe of Canada celebrates her gold medal in the women's halfpipe skiing final at the Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Cassie Sharpe of Canada celebrates her gold medal in the women's halfpipe skiing final at the Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

BOKWANG, Korea, Republic Of — The three women's halfpipe medallists gathered by the dais after their news conference at Phoenix Park and extended their arms for a photo of the back of their hands.

The Frenchwoman and American had both painted their nails red and blue while Canada's Cassie Sharpe went with a more sparkling option.

The golden colour proved to be a fitting choice. 

Sharpe was victorious in her Olympic debut Tuesday, delivering two dominant runs for the win at the Pyeongchang Winter Games. Her initial run of 94.40 put her in first place and she was the only skier who could top it, delivering a 95.80 that stood up for the win.

"I feel like I grabbed every trick and went big," she said. "It's definitely a run that I'm super proud of."

Skiing last in the 11-athlete field, Sharpe didn't need her third and final run. France's Marie Martinod was in the penultimate position but crashed out. 

The 25-year-old Canadian was watching from the top and with victory in hand, high-fived coach Trennon Paynter before heading down to showcase a few more tricks.

She extended her arms in joy as she reached the bottom of the pipe.

"I've put in a ton of work into having consistency with this run," Sharpe said. "So was I expecting a dominant performance? Maybe not so much those words but I was expecting a consistent and clean performance."

Martinod finished second with 92.60 and American Brita Sigourney won bronze with a 91.60.

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"I guess I was going much higher and keeping my style on, so it's a bit of frustration, of course," said Martinod. "But that's fine, I broke my arse and I need some painkillers right now."

Sharpe, who won silver at the 2015 world championship, started the tradition of painting her nails gold before events last year.

When she doesn't perform well, she can't wait to take it off. This time around, the nailpolish remover will stay in the cabinet.   

"It's a little inspiration," Sharpe said of the colour choice. "A little reminder of what you're going for."

Just like a day earlier when she took top spot in qualifying, Sharpe was confident from the start on a cool, sunny morning at the freestyle facility.

She went for it early and hit all of her tricks, tapping her heart two times and smiling after completing her first run.

Sharpe, from Comox, B.C., looked relieved, knowing she could really go for it later on if needed. She changed things up for her second run and added a half-rotation at the end for a 1080 tailgrab.

"She had a bang-on run from the start (in qualifying) and she just built on that," said Dave Mirota, Freestyle Canada's vice-president of sport. "When she does that, her confidence is there and she's above the rest of the field."

Sharpe first got into the discipline in 2012. Frustrated after crashing in a slopestyle run, a former coach suggested she try halfpipe instead. 

She did and won a competition almost right away. Sharpe has been on a steady rise since, reaching the world championship podium in 2015, taking X Games gold in '16 and posting three other wins earlier this season.

All three medallists said they were proud of how far the sport has come since being added to the Olympic program four years ago.

They also said they were all inspired by pioneer Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, who died in 2012 at age 29 from injuries suffered in a superpipe training run crash. 

"I (finished) second to her at my first X Games which was probably cooler for me than winning," Sigourney said.

Calgary's Roz Groenewoud finished 10th with a score of 70.60.

Sharpe is powerful and fluid on her skis, with tricks that appear effortless. She rockets over four metres in the air on some moves.

"I feel like I can trust myself and trust in my own abilities," Sharpe said. "I think that was a down fault that I had a lot of the seasons before this year.

"I feel like if I just trust and put the time in that I could do anything."

Sochi Olympic champion Maddie Bowman of the United States finished last in the 11-skier field. She crashed hard on her final run but was able to ski to the finish area on her own. 

The men's ski halfpipe qualifying was held after Sharpe's triumph. Mike Riddle of Sherwood Park, Alta., and Calgary's Noah Bowman qualified for Thursday's final in seventh and ninth position respectively. American Aaron Blunck was the top qualifier.


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