Jossi Wells, Wanaka, New Zealand and Bobby Brown, Breckenridge, Colorado hit 1440’s and TJ Schiller, Vernon, Canada became the first man EVER to spin a 1620. The scores were massive from all competitors, this was evident in his first run Henshaw scored a 47 out of 50. But, Henshaw openly admits that he was flabbergasted by the skill in the final and the tricks that the other guys were coughing up were out of his range.
Skiing Big Air is run as a jam session, the competitors have a set time to get in as many jumps as they can, then their top two scores are combined. Bobby Brown took out the event with a perfect score of 100, followed closely behind by Schiller (95) and Elias Ambuhl (90). Russ Henshaw and New Zealander, Jossi Wells came equal forth (89).
No time. An early night for Henshaw, Slopestyle practice in the morning. Suiting up for practice in the morning is not as easy as it sounds. The athletes muscles and bones take so much force in the Big Air that even to walk the next day can be a massive achievement. But, there was no chance Russ was going to miss skiing up against Jossi Wells and Bobby Brown.
The final of the Slopestyle consists of eight athletes, they each get three runs and the best scored run wins. The top half of the course consists of rails and the bottom half showcases huge kickers. The athletes were feeling the pressure, the first three crashed their runs. Russ didn’t place, but he did show the world that he was cool under-pressure, stomping out three solid runs.
It is a long drive from Jindabyne, New South Wales to Aspen, Colorado. Russ grew up skiing Thredbo, where he raced until he was maybe ten or twelve. He took up freestyle and his dad found him his coach Nick Draxi, whom he is still with today. Draxi took Henshaw overseas when he was 15, he got results and then it all exploded from there.
Henshaw’s X Games results last year were poor, he missed out on the Slopestyle Final, “nothing went in his favour”, the weather was bad and he was sick the day before elimination. In contrast, this year has been slamming for Henshaw, he took out the London Freeze Big Air, Jon Olsson Big Air and the Barcelona Snow Show leading up to the X Games.
He talks about the crazy Slopstyle Elimination Final for X Games 14 this year, big names TJ Schiller and Colby West missed out on a spot in the line up. The athletes, the coaches and the crowd wondered how the stomping was going to elevate from Elimination to Final. Henshaw scored an 84 for his first run of elimination, he was confident that would qualify him, but that wasn’t enough. Henshaw built on his 84 and raised it to 90, which landed him in the top three qualifiers.
Russ did not podium in Slopestyle but he was happy to be competing with the best. After X Games 14, Russ will be heading to Vermont on the East Coast for the last leg of the Dew Tour, then to Europe for Matchstick filming, in both the park and the back country.
Sport and life teaches us that a good thing can change in a second. Last year at Winter X Games 13 Anna Segal was in her element, finishing in absolutely terrible weather conditions with a Gold medal in Slopestyle. Winter X Games 14 holds a different experience for Anna. She sits in the corner of the athlete tent, with one of her legs elevated with a bag of snow on top of her knee.
Anna has not had a good feeling about the X Games this year, she had a crazy term of events during the season. It started with altitude sickness. During a Breckenridge team gym session, she pushed it two hard, her body couldn’t recover at 10,000 feet. She was bedridden for three days. Then there was the frostbite. She thought her toes were sore from toe bang (when the end of your toes hit the end of your boot during jumps practice, leaving them bruised). One day after practice her toes were so sore it brought her to tears, when she removed her socks there was a flap of skin just dangling there.
About a week after that came the car crash. Anna totalled the Jeep she owned with her housemate, whilst driving over an icy Vail pass. She hit her head during the accident, was taken by an ambulance and had to have a CT scan. An insurance nightmare!
But, Anna’s most frustrating part of the season was partially tearing her MCL (Mediate Cruciate Ligament). Anna thought she blew her knee and feared her season was over. Doctors orders, she was allowed back on skis in 3 weeks, and she could jump in five. The accident happened two and a half weeks ago, Anna contemplates whether to compete.
For Anna, skiing got competitive when she started in the Mt Buller Racing squad in her young teenager years. She did “the whole going up to Mt Buller every weekend, interschool’s and that sort of thing”. Anna began with moguls, but it was tough because the squad expects you to have four pairs of skis and has you “spending money on nothing”. After her first year with Mt Buller squad doing moguls, Anna was invited to a Swiss Camp to train.
From there Anna began to compete in International competition, scoring herself a few firsts and many podium finishes. But, when she blew her knee at 18 she saw the “bright lights” of Freeskiing and wanted to be doing “big tricks”. In 2007, post recovery from knee surgery she opted to dive into the deep end and move to Aspen, by herself. She worked many jobs just to cover rent, including a position at the X Games, not knowing she would be a competitor the following year.
An Australian, female athlete finds it difficult to find sponsors and survive financially in a sport that in scarce in the Outback. The Australian brands protest the athlete should be sponsored by international brands because that is where they are competing and the international brands protest the athlete needs to be sponsored by their own country. The first year or two felt impossible for Anna.
Anna continues to question whether there is a place for her in the sport. She has a fantastic support crew and in the near future hopes that she can come back for the final leg of the Dew Tour and can broaden her appearances to skiing DVD’s. At her X Games comeback in Europe she finished just behind podium in 4th place.
Besides seeing the top athletes at the X Games there is more to experience. As a spectator, it’s impossible to be in bad spirits at the X Games. There is free transport to the games, free entrance to the event, and there is enough free stuff to collect that any foreigner can make show-bags for their mates back at home. Bandanas, lollies, magazines, CD’s, and many more! The atmosphere resembles an Australia day barbeque, but in the snow, loud music and plasma flat-screens showing the action.
The Winter X Games 14 is organised chaos. Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado hosts the biggest event on the cards for a large sum of the competitors. Looking up to the face of the mountain there are five courses. From the left is the Snowmobile track, the Slopestyle course, the Superpipe, the X Course and the Big Air Jump. These athletes are crazy.
The athlete tent shows its capacity during meal times, the competitors must smell the food from the slopes and come skiing. The athletes claim the X Games always have the best tent compared to other competitions on the road. There are couches, massage chairs, computers set up with the internet and massive plasma screens equipped with Playstation 3, to ensure the athletes won’t miss a beat whilst they relax in their heated social space. Coffee, hot chocolate, juice, nutrient water, normal water, protein shakes/bars, muesli bars, chips, chocolate and more.
There is a wax and tune room in the tent to assist the athletes at anytime of the day. There are ski jackets and boots spread all over the floor and the place is buzzing at a high decimal level with conversations between fellow athletes.
Russ Henshaw and Anna Segal love the life on the road. They try and make it back to Australia during our winter but skiing is their priority. Both admit that an awesome support crew is vital, you need people around that can keep you real. Australia should look forward to seeing these two athletes on the podium in future seasons.