TIGNES, France -- French skiers Marie Martinod-Routin and Anais Caradeux closed out the final event of X Games Tignes on Friday night with a special salute to the local crowd, taking the top two spots ahead of American Maddie Bowman, the X Games Aspen 2013 gold medalist.
"It's probably the first time I've had so many friends at the bottom and all my family, and everything I can say is that I heard you guys," Martinod-Routin said, celebrating with her daughter from the bottom of the pipe after the competition. "I heard you screaming and shouting so loud; it just gave me so much power."
Martinod-Routin's win stands as the X Games comeback story of the year. The 28-year-old athlete retired from pro competition after winning X Games bronze in 2006, leaving the sport to raise her daughter and open a bar in La Plagne, France. She came back this season with an eye to the 2014 Olympic debut of ski superpipe and as a tribute to her fallen friend Sarah Burke, finishing in fourth place at the FIS World Cup event at the future Olympic venue in Sochi, Russia, in February and winning big in front of the French crowd Friday night in Tignes.
"One night ... Sarah Burke passed by and said, 'Marie, you have to be back. There's going to be Olympics. You never did that before. You have to come,'" Martinod-Routin said, explaining her return and new motivation. "And that's it. It's the beginning."
And a fine beginning at that. Martinod-Routin came out big in Run 1 with a left 540 safety grab, right 540 opposite mute grab, flair safety grab, safety grab set-up air and left 720, posting a score of 86.33 that stood up through all three runs of competition.
"Marie made a huge comeback," said second-place Caradeux. "She skied amazing tonight, as did all of the girls. The level of riding was breathtaking, and I think we all rode our best. I'm happy to be on this podium."
Bowman is the leader in the AFP World Tour women's halfpipe rankings, ahead of Roz Groenewoud, who placed fourth in Tignes, and Caradeux. Bowman said her podium finish in Tignes was a fitting end to a busy year.
"It was a great season. I'm really happy," Bowman said. "This is my last contest of the year, and I just get to relax now."