Canada's Dara Howell captures slopestyle silver in New Zealand
Norway's Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen wins gold
Canadian freestyle skier Dara Howell took home a silver medal in the World Cup slopestyle event on Saturday at the New Zealand Winter Games.
Norway's Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen, who was the best overall freeskier on the AFP World Tour last season and second in slopestyle, scored 91 points on her first run to beat Howell, of Huntsville, Ont., and Germany's Lisa Zimmermann.
American Nick Goepper won the men's event as James Woods of Britain led the men's competition until the last run before being headed by Goepper, last season's No. 1 slopestyle skier on the AFP World Tour, who scored 94.00 points.
Freestyle skiing will make its debut at next year's Winter Olympic Games at Sochi in Russia.
Only six athletes contested the women's final after the withdrawal of Switzerland's Eveline Bhend and Britain's Anna Vincenti. Christiansen still had to produce an oustanding run to beat Howell, who scored 84.40 points, and Zimmerman, who scored 72.00.
The gold medalist landed a first run that featured a slide over the wall ride to switch lipside onto the down rail, frontside 450 off the canon rail then into the kicker line with a left 540 mute, switch right 900 tail and right 900 tail.
The run gave her a big enough margin to win the gold medal, regardless of her performance on her second run.
"Not my best but I've just got to train harder," Christiansen said. "I put down two solid runs so I'm stoked."
Goepper's winning run, which snatched the gold medal from Woods who scored 92.00 points, included a starting switch 360 to 180 over the wall ride to transfer frontside switch up to back 270 out on the downrail, hand drag 3 over the rainbow rail, a right double cork 1080 mute over the first kicker into left double cork 1260 tail on the second and finishing with a switch rightside double cork 900 screamin'.
Woods edged out Australia's Russ Henshaw to take the silver medal in the first World Cup event of the year.
Goepper said he was forced to change things up on his second run, adding another trick on the first jump.
"I'm just insanely happy to be here," he said. "It's really, really surreal and I didn't even imagine this is how the day would go but I'm just happy to be down here in New Zealand.
"Today was ridiculous. You've got to be learning new tricks in your down time. It's so consistent; every guy out there is so smooth and so technical. It's tough."