Vincent Gagnier Wins AFP Big Air
Third time is the charm. After throwing a double bio 10 octograb three years in a row at World Skiing Invitational Big Air and coming in third and then second, the trick finally took Canadian Vincent Gagnier to the top of the podium Saturday night at the Association of Freeskiing Professionals' World Championships in Whistler, BC. American Gus Kenworthy, who'd already secured the AFP overall championship title, finished second, and X Games Aspen 2013 Big Air winner Henrik Harlaut from Sweden was third.
It felt like spring in Whistler, the sun was out, the snow was slushy, and the landing was soft. The big air jump, which was reportedly flat and slow for Friday's training session, benefited from four inches of overnight snow and a reshaped lip. "It's much better today then yesterday," JF Houle said during warmups. Double cork 1260s were the most frequently thrown trick of the evening, with most of the field throwing that or a double cork 1080 during qualifiers.
A couple of usually strong contenders failed to make it into the finals. Jossi Wells, who was ranked third in the AFP standings in big air, failed to put either of his qualifying runs to his feet, and Tom Wallisch took an out-of-character fall on his second qualifying run. "I've been focusing a little bit more on filming than on contests this year," Wallisch said. "This summer and next year I'm going to focus more on contests."
Gagnier who came into the finals in eighth, just on the bubble of qualifying, threw a crowd-pleasing rodeo 900 screamin' seamen in his second run of qualifiers, which earned him an 84.67. In the finals, he stepped it up, putting down a signature double bio 10 octograb and earning 92 points. "It's my best trick and I'm the only one who can do it, so it made sense to do it here," he said.
Gus Kenworthy, who took the AFP overall title for the third year in a row, was the favorite coming into the night. He bobbled a double cork 1260 and put a hip down in his first qualifying run, then laid down a clean version for a score of 85.33, which was enough for 7th and a place in the finals. In finals, he threw a double cork 1620, which put him a point behind Gagnier.
After blowing the entire skiing world away with his nose butter triple cork 1620 at X Games Aspen in January, Henrik Harlaut, took it a little bit easier in Whistler, throwing a nose butter dub 1080 and a nose butter dub 1440 in finals for a score of 90. "It's the end of the season, I'm just chillin'," he said. Plus, he had other things on his mind. "I had trouble focusing on the jump today because Nas is playing here tonight and he's my favorite artist, as a single artist, of all time."
As the sun set behind Rainbow Mountain, and the rest of the crowd started to build to Harlaut's level of excitement about the Nas concert, Gagnier said he was proud of finally winning in Whistler. "It's the first contest I've ever won in this good of a field," Gagnier said.
2013 AFP World Championships: Men's Big Air Results