Austin excited about finals opportunity
Zyre Austin isn’t about to get cocky — no matter how good of a run she had during qualifying for the FIS U.S. Grand Prix Freeskiing halfpipe finals at Mammoth Mountain, California.
“Trust me. It’s not like I’m going to take a win away from her,” said Austin, referring to gold medalist Maddie Bowman following her top qualifying run this past Wednesday. “But with where I am, it’s the least amount of pressure that I could be under. And that will help me because, right now, I have nowhere to go but up.”
That said, Austin, a Glenwood Springs native, has quickly ascended to a spot where she can compete with some of the best in freestyle skiing. That was no more evident that on Wednesday, when she was the last of six qualifiers to make the finals in her event. Barring excessive snow and wind, the halfpipe finals are tentatively scheduled for 9:30 a.m. today.
Austin’s qualification for today’s final follows her solid finish in the halfpipe during the FIS World Ski Championships in Kreischberg, Austria, on Jan. 22. Her eighth-place finish in the event — which netted her 320 FIS World Cup points — was the top finish among the Americans competing. Before that, she nearly managed a podium finish at Copper Mountain on Dec. 18, finishing fourth on her 21st birthday.
“Yes,” Austin admitted in a telephone interview on Thursday. “I went out for drinks afterward.”
Those performances gave her a lot of confidence heading into today’s final, which boasts a pair of former American Olympians in Bowman and Angeli Vanlaanen. Bowman won a gold medal in the halfpipe at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and won X Games gold in the halfpipe in 2013.
Bowman finished Wednesday’s qualifying with a score of 88.80. Vanlaanen was fifth with a score of 76.0, with Austin snagging the sixth and final qualifying spot with a 74.20.
“If I can finish less than two points behind and Olympian, I think I’m on the right track,” Austin said.
Austin actually thought that her second run, which was scored at a 64.20, was better than her first run simply because she got more air on some of her tricks. She admitted that some of the grabs on her tricks were closer to touches, however, and that her first run was cleaner and smoother than the second.
She hopes that down the road she’ll be able to get a few more tricks down to bump her scores higher. In the meantime, at least today, she’ll focus on getting better with the run that got her here.
“If I’m able to notch some solid grabs, that’ll help my score a lot,” Austin said. “I’ll just need a good clean run with more amplitude, and I need to just focus on beating my best score.”
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