It seems only fitting that the final contest of the winter season was held in the Whistler halfpipe, with Sarah Burke's name written in cursive along the top of the pipe.
There was a sense of relief in the air on Sunday afternoon -- after a full weekend of contests, parties, and events here at the AFP World Championships, the finale to Whistler's World Ski and Snowboard Festival. The athletes seemed thankful that this season, a particularly long and difficult one due to the January 19 death of freeskier and Whistler local Sarah Burke, is finally coming to an end.
Mike Riddle won the men's pipe finals, his first podium of the season. "It's been a hard season for sure," said Riddle, a Canadian teammate and friend of Burke's. "It's been tough for the whole ski community with losing Sarah. I'm happy to end the season on a good note."
Riddle's winning run, which scored a 92.6, included a double 1260, a rightside 900, a leftside 900, and a flat 360 to a switch 900. "I was in first after my first run, but I knew I could do it a bit better," he said. "So I thought, 'I should try to improve it.' I pushed up [my score] a bit on the second run and held onto it. I'm really happy with my result."
Frenchman Thomas Krief took second with a score of 87, followed by American Joss Christensen in third with an 85.6.
Torin Yater-Wallace's fourth place finish on Sunday was enough to earn him the overall AFP men's halfpipe title for the year. Yater-Wallace was in a tight season-long race with David Wise in the overall rankings, but Wise had to pull out of Sunday's pipe finals due a knee injury he sustained in Saturday night's big air contest.
In the women's halfpipe finals, American Maddie Bowman took the top spot with a score of 93.2, ahead of France's Anais Caradeux (85.0) and Canadian Roz Groenewoud (83.6). Bowman's winning run included a 900, a leftside 540, a rightside 720, and switch 540.
Groenewoud's podium finish secured her the top spot in the women's AFP halfpipe rankings. "I look up to Roz," said Bowman, when asked about beating Roz on Sunday. "I totally respect her and I love how she skis, so just getting to ski with her is special."
And then, as if to sum up the way everyone was feeling on this final contest day, Bowman paused and added, "Everyone out here is skiing for Sarah."