Bretz Takes Fourth at Foggy Winter Games NZ
WANAKA, New Zealand (Aug. 29, 2015)—Fighting fog and falls in the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ halfpipe, the Americans struggled in the halfpipe on Sunday, with Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, CA) finishing as the top American, just off the podium in fourth. Japan’s Raibu Katayama and Cai Xuetong from China eventually took the men’s and women’s titles.
Katayama emerged from relative obscurity to steal gold from a world-class field battling it out at Cardrona Alpine Resort near Wanaka. It was only Katayama’s second medal on the international scene, although he is no stranger to the podium at home. Katayama’s teammate Taku Hiraoka was second, with reigning Olympic champion Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland taking the bronze medal.
The big guns failed to fire on their first run, with the exception of Bretz, whose 82.25 put him in second. But the fog rolled in, leaving riders waiting for clearance for their second and third runs. When competition resumed, Bretz increased his score to 86.00, only for Podladtchikov to squeak by with an 86.75.
In the third run, everyone had to step up or miss out on a medal, and more than half the field fell trying to land the trick that might give them an edge. After a second weather break, Hiraoka notched up a superb last run, scoring an 89.00 for second place and giving Japan a hard-earned one-two.
Rounding out the American men, Chase Josey (Hailey, ID) was ninth.
Kelly Clark throws down on her first run, before falling and finishing in sixth. (Getty Images-Camilla Rutherford)
Xuetong continued her winning run at the Games, adding gold to her 2013 silver and 2011 gold in the halfpipe. She went into an immediate lead with her first run score of 88.00 for an air to fakie backside grab, a cab 7 backside, a front 5 backside grab, a back 5 mute, and a front 7 indy.
Cai’s biggest threat was Kelly Clark (West Dover, VT), who won the gold medal at Winter Games NZ 2013. But it wasn’t her day, and three falls took her out of contention. The only American to make it to the finals, Clark finished sixth. Hikaru Oe of Japan was second and France’s Sophie Rodriguez took the bronze.
"It was definitely a challenging day with the fog rolling in and out throughout the competition. Some athletes had better conditions than others, but this is the nature of our mountain based sport," said Head Coach Mike Jankowski. "Kelly rode well and nearly landed her runs but unfortunately was unable to put together a clean run in the finals. Greg rode very well and all in all, we're happy with his riding."
- Raibu Katayama: frontside 10 tail grab, a cab double 10, a frontside 9 tail grab, a backside 9 mute and a frontside 10 double mute grab.
- Cai Xuetong: air to fakie backside grab, a cab 7 backside, a front 5 backside grab, a back 5 mute and a front 7 indy.
Release details courtesy of Winter Games NZ.