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Gagnier ends Hall’s slopestyle reign

Devon O'NeilSummit County Correspondent
CMNM Photo/Preston Utley Professional skier Peter Olenick flys through the air doing a straight air ironcross Thursday during a slopestyle practice at the Winter X games in Aspen.
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ASPEN – Move over, Tanner Hall. There’s only room for one under the slopestyle spotlight, and it’s Charles Gagnier’s turn.

Gagnier, an upstart 19-year-old from Quebec, used a spectacular second run to thwart Hall’s attempt at the first four-peat in Winter X Games history and win the men’s ski slopestyle gold medal in dramatic fashion Sunday afternoon. Hall finished second, 1.66 points back.”Best feeling ever,” said Gagnier, who also relegated Hall to runner-up at last week’s U.S. Freeskiing Open in Vail. “I’m just stoked. It’s not easy (to beat Tanner).”The history-altering victory came down to the final trick of the final run. Gagnier qualified first in the morning’s prelims, but fell on his initial trip down Buttermilk’s innovative course in the finals. Hall took advantage, posting a second-run score of 91.00 – a whopping four points ahead of the eventual bronze medalist, Sweden’s Jon Olsson. The score seemed like it would hold up. With TV cameras following Hall’s every premature move of celebration at the bottom, however, Gagnier ended the competition in grand fashion, grabbing his ski for 900 degrees of his switch 1080 on the last kicker. The crowd waited in suspense for the score; when the 92.66 flashed, a majority of the spectators exulted.Hall was the first to congratulate Gagnier at the bottom, though the move lost some luster when Hall later complained about Gagnier’s “Rollerblade style of skiing” winning the competition. Hall also blamed the scoring, saying at least one of the judges was biased against him.

Slopestyle: see page 16″I’ve had 15,000 people come up to me and say I got robbed,” Hall said five minutes after the contest.As for the four-peat that wasn’t, Hall added: “It would’ve been the first one and it would’ve put skiing on the map, but whatever. It’s a judged sport, and it sucks.”Olsson went home with the bronze for the fourth straight year, upping his career medal count to an X Games-best seven. He hinted that he didn’t think a bias determined the competition.

“It’s always day to day,” he said.Maine native Simon Dumont, last year’s pipe gold medalist, took fourth on the strength of a near-perfect first run. Henrick Windstedt, Olsson’s countryman, rounded out the top five. Hometown favorite Peter Olenick fell on both of his runs and finished 10th after qualifying third. Copper Mountain Freeride Team member Nick Mercon took 13th in prelims and missed the finals. He later said he wished he had taken more risks.For Gagnier, the win culminated a two-week coming-out party that has caught many skiing pundits by surprise. The shy, accented teenager – who is every bit as soft-spoken as Hall is outspoken – overcame a brutal-looking black eye that he sustained during a training run three days ago.When it counted most, he rebounded from his first-run fall with the cool of a champion. In fact, he used the same combination of moves that had failed him the first run to win.”I knew I just had to land my tricks,” Gagnier said, “and that was going to be a good result.”


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