Longo SurpriseThe 2009 Oakley Arctic Challenge wrapped today with France's Arthur Longo taking the overall title followed by Matt Ladley and Antti Autti. Ladley doubled down with a win for Best Trick with a styled out backside 540 mute while Terje Haakonsen rallied to take the highest air with a 6.5 meter backside five nosegrab.
This year's 10th anniversary contest was particularly gnarly as heavy snow pounded the quarterpipe at Linderudkollen, making visibility and speed major issues. Kevin Pearce, Shayne Pospisil and Mads Jonsson were all knocked out after falls, with Jonsson suffering a broken arm. They joined Peetu Piiroinen to the list of the Challenge's casualties, who dropped out after a crash in Highest Air practice on Tuesday. Also missing from today's lineup was Heikki Sorsa, who left Oslo on Friday for undisclosed reasons.
There was also some controversy over Longo's win as some felt that he had been a bit sketchy on landings as opposed to Ladley who was clearly the day's cleanest competitor. Ladley lost points for his lack of variation after he ignored contemporary wisdom and didn't throw a straight air on his last run, opting instead for a backside 900 nosegrab that he did not land.
"I maybe should have thought about it," he said afterwards but mainly shrugged it off with the help of his two trophies. "I feel good. I was riding pretty well and trying to go big, some of them worked, some of them didn't," said Ladley before adding "I didn't even know I was coming here until the day before I left. I can't believe it, it's great." The controversy wasn't lost on Longo who said "I feel so stoked. But I can't even really realize it because I feel a bit guilty because I'm not sure I actually deserved it. But anyway it's a contest and I was lucky today and maybe some other riders weren't." For Longo, improvisation was the key, "When I came here, I was easy and I thought I would just try to do what I could do. I didn't even know I was going to do a frontside alley-oop. I just decided three seconds before dropping and it turned out to be a good choice for sure because I took big stuff in the variation."
Although everyone was stoked on the winners, the injuries and weather certainly colored the mood here, especially that of Terje himself. "I feel like there were a lot of good things but then there are a lot of things you can't do anything about. When you've had a lot of years with pretty good weather and then suddenly the really bad weather hits you again, you kind of forget about those factors. Like the fact that people do get hurt when there are bad conditions. So I'm not really stoked on that."
Following the elimination heats in the morning, a meeting was held to determine if the weather had become too severe for the contest. At one point it was circulated that the decision had been made to postpone the final until Sunday. However the overall ramifications to sponsors, media and the spectators eventually led to the reversal of that decision. "I was fighting to push it one day," said Haakonsen, "but the whole rig is so big it can't just be turned on and off like that. I could have done it, and I should have done it but for the sponsors of course it's a lot of money this year, and some of the riders were saying, 'lets just get it over with' and others were saying 'let's wait.' There were a lot of opinions. But it's a competition format so the conditions are the same for everyone. You don't have to compete if you don't want to. It might not have been the ideal situation for everybody but some guys were really good, so props to them."
Although neither the High Air nor consecutive victory records were broken the 2009 TAC remains one of the most unique and well executed events in the world. Stay tuned for more with Terje Haakonsen as well as behind the scenes at the TAC. Skol!
1. Arthur Longo 1340
2. Matt Ladley 1336
3. Antti Autti 1250p
4. Risto Mattila 1131p
5. Terje Håkonsen 1094p
6. Henning Martinsen 1014p
7. Pål Sørensen 762p
8. Yasuyuki Momose 699p
Best trick: Matt Ladley, backside 540 mute.
Highest air: Terje Håkonsen, 6.5 meter backside 540 nosegrab