Torah Bright beat out Kelly Clark and Queralt Castellet in Saturday's women's halfpipe finals at the 2013 Sprint U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo., marking a return to form for the 2010 Olympic gold medalist.
"After the Olympics I decided I didn't want to ride pipe anymore for awhile. So I went and rode powder, just taking my time, taking it easy, and riding the way I wanted to ride. Just 'totally boarding,' as I call it," Bright said, explaining her brief competition hiatus. "Now I'm stoked to be back and back on top, and stoked to have gotten the points I need to qualify for the Olympics."
Saturday's result earned Bright and her Australian team FIS Snowboard World Cup points towards Olympic qualification for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Clark holds her overall lead in the 2013 FIS World Cup after Saturday's second-place finish, and says just missing the number one spot at the U.S. Grand Prix is as motivating to her as anything.
"The level of women's riding is at an all-time high and it was great to see some new faces and some new people coming up and getting much more consistent," Clark said. "Snowboarding's a cool sport like that: I love seeing other people snowboard well, and when I do it just makes me want to be a better snowboarder. I'm walking away from this event inspired and looking forward to everything ahead."
Nathan Johnstone, another Australian rider, surprised everyone -- himself, most of all -- with a win in the men's halfpipe competition, beating out Luke Mitrani and Louie Vito for the top spot. Saturday's win also puts Johnstone in the lead in the overall 2013 FIS World Cup standings.
"I'm over the moon," Johnstone said. "I literally cannot believe I just won. I did not expect this result coming into this event at all, but the pipe was good and everything just came together. It's incredible. I've looked up to Luke Mitrani and Louie Vito for my whole snowboarding career, so to be on the podium next to them and to have beaten them... it's all kind of mind-blowing to me."
Johnstone said he's looking forward to competing at X Games Aspen later this month, and admits he has the 2014 Winter Olympics on the brain, too.
"The Olympics are still down the track a bit, but that's definitely one of my biggest goals right now," he said. "I missed Vancouver in 2010 because of an ankle injury, so I'm really looking forward to this one and just hope I can continue this good run and stay healthy and strong."
Chas Guldemond says his Slopestyle win on Friday at the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo. is extra sweet because, in addition to being a FIS World Cup event and the first-ever Olympic Slopestyle qualifier, this year's U.S. Grand Prix is also a 5Star event on the World Snowboard Tour.
This week's contest marked the first time athletes have ever worn both FIS and World Snowboard Tour logos on the same competition bib, and Guldemond -- a leader of the We Are Snowboarding international athletes union -- was instrumental in brokering the unlikely partnership between the rival sport organizers.
"When the Olympics came into the picture we just felt it was time for the riders to stand up for themselves and make sure that the sport was moving in the right direction," Guldemond said on Friday. "To be a leading force in that was really special to me, and taking the win today at this very symbolic event is just awesome."
The International Ski Federation's governance of snowboarding at the Olympic level has rankled some snowboarders since the very beginning, and the old grudges were renewed after slopestyle was announced as a medal sport for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. There's still some work to be done on that front, Guldemond concedes, but he says he hopes the U.S. Grand Prix collaboration stands as a model for moving forward.
Guldemond posted the two highest scores of the day to beat out Finnish riders Roope Tonteri and Peetu Piiroinen for the top spot on Friday. And, as if to emphasize Slopestyle's readiness for the Olympic stage, top competitors in Friday's 16-man finals also included riders from Belgium, Great Britain, Canada, Sweden, Japan, Norway, and Austria. "It's so awesome to see so many fresh faces out here and to get a preview of what we might be in store for at the Olympics," Guldemond said.
In the women's slopestyle finals, Jamie Anderson continued her dominant streak on Friday, beating out Norwegian rider Kjersti Buaas and Swiss rider Isabel Derungs to top the podium.
"I was really excited and fortunate to compete at this event because there are so many riders from all over the world and so much positive energy, and it's really fun to come together," Anderson said. "It's like the beginning of a new thing, with Slopestyle coming to the Olympics. There were over 50 amazing women slopestyle riders here, which is huge for our sport."
U.S. Grand Prix at Copper 2013: Snowboard Results:
Women's Halfpipe Results:
1. Torah Bright (AUS) 85.75
2. Kelly Clark (USA) 82.00
3. Queralt Castellet (SPA) 80.75
4. Areialle Gold (USA) 75.00
5. Kaitlyn Farrington (USA) 69.50
6. Ellery Hollingsworth (USA) 57.00
7. Elena Hight (USA) 42.75
8. Haruna Matsumoto (JPN) 31.75
Men's Halfpipe Results:
1. Nathan Johnstone (AUS) 94.75
2. Luke Mitrani (USA) 92.75
3. Louie Vito (USA) 86.75
4. Arthur Longo (FRA) 83.25
5. Zach Black (USA) 81.00
6. Greg Bretz (USA) 80.25
7. Benji Farrow (USA) 79.25
8. Chase Josey (USA) 75.00
9. Kent Callister (AUS)74.25
10. David Habluetzel (SUI) 70.75
Men's Snowboard Slopestyle:
1. Chas Guldemond (USA) 92.5
2. Roope Tonteri (FIN) 80.2
3. Peetu Piiroinen (FIN) 78.2
4. Seppe Smits (BEL) 74.0
5. Billy Morgan (GBR) 72.7
6. Maxence Parrot (CAN) 72.5
7. Sven Thorgren (SWE) 72.0
8. Jordan Phillips (CAN) 68.5
9. Takahiro Ishida (JPN) 54.5
10. Gjermund Braaten (NOR) 41.5
Women's Snowboard Slopestyle:
1. Jamie Anderson (USA) 83.0
2. Kjersti Buaas (NOR) 74.2
3. Isabel Derungs (SUI) 71.5
4. Elena Koenz (SUI) 65.2
5. Urska Pribosic (SLO) 50.2
6. Sarka Pancochova (CZE) 50.0
7. Stefi Luxton (NZL) 30.2
8. Spencer O'Brien (CAN) 23.2