TIGNES, France -- McRae Williams won gold in the Men's Ski Slopestyle finals on the Jeep Slopestyle course on Thursday at X Games Tignes, claiming his first X Games medal after failing to qualify for finals in January at X Games Aspen 2013.
"I woke up with butterflies this morning," Williams said after the competition. "I had trouble getting breakfast down, but it all worked out. It's a beautiful day, and I was super confident going into it after a few good days of practice. ... It feels amazing: first-ever X Games finals and a gold medal. I can't believe it."
Williams, who is from Park City, Utah, is one of a handful of athletes who arrived in Tignes without his gear after the airline misplaced his luggage. He was able to get skis sent overnight to France in time to make the top-eight cut in Wednesday's elimination round. Thursday's final was left wide-open with plenty of room for surprises after X Games Aspen 2013 medalists Nick Goepper, Henrik Harlaut and James Woods all failed to advance from the elimination round.
"I ended up having skis sent overnight on Tuesday night, so they came in time for the qualifying on Wednesday," Williams said. "Then just yesterday my bag ended up showing up, so it all worked out. It was definitely a stressful beginning of the week but somehow everything worked out and I couldn't be happier now."
Williams led after the first of three runs with a score of 90.00, then improved to 94.33 in his second run, which included a nosebutter 450 to switch, switch in frontside 270 to switch tail butter 450, left 900 tail grab and back-to-back double cork 1080s. A fall in Run 3 left him waiting to watch as his friends, including Wednesday's top qualifier Jossi Wells, tried to best him.
"It's a love-hate relationship. We all want each other to do good, but at the same time you're kind of hoping to keep that top spot," Williams said. "Those could have been the longest five minutes of my life, for sure. Obviously we want all our homies to kill it."
Wells bumped into silver-medal position on his final run, falling just short of Williams' mark with a score of 93.0. "It was definitely nerve-racking," New Zealand's Wells said of his down-to-the-wire last run. "But just being able to land my runs again and feel good on my skis, that's enough to make me stoked."
American Gus Kenworthy rounded out the podium for the bronze with a score of 92.0. "As far as lighting goes, it was the best day so far, super sunny and easy to see, with good visibility," Kenworthy said. "We couldn't really ask for a better slopestyle day."