Brogden, Pouch Claim Inaugural Freeski Nationals Big Air Titles
Despite warnings of a massive snowstorm bearing down on the Rockies and the Midwest, Tuesday was another perfect spring day at Copper Mountain Resort and the final Open Class competition of the 2019 USASA National Freeski Championships. The day went down with warm temperatures, sunny skies, and a perfect jump greeting riders at the first-ever USASA/U.S. Ski & Snowboard big air competition.
While freeski big air has been included in the FIS World Cup calendar for several seasons and was approved as an Olympic event for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, it took a combination of factors for big air to make it’s USASA Nationals debut this season. Because of this, the competition as it went down on Tuesday was officially categorized as a FIS National Championships in collaboration with USASA for U.S. Ski & Snowboard.
With all of that being said, the important thing to note is that the top 12 men and seven women put on a top-tier show in Tuesday’s finals on the biggest jump in Copper Mountain park’s proline, and in the end Connie Brogden of Great Britain and James Pouch (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) walked away with gold medals.
Brogden has been competing in the U.S. as a member of the Southern Vermont Series for several seasons now, rising up the ranks to the point where she won FIS World Junior Ski Championships gold in the halfpipe at Leysin, Switzerland this past January. After scoring a USASA Nationals silver medal in the halfpipe on Sunday and finishing just off the podium in fourth in Monday’s slopestyle competition, Brogden capped an impressive Nationals performance by stomping a clean 900 on Tuesday to take the victory with a score of 87.50.
“It was really good today. Quick in the morning but it got soft in the finals,” Brogden said following the awards ceremony. “The jump was really good and it was a really fun comp. I’m really grateful and super happy that I won.”
Second with a score of 74.50 was 15-year-old Jenna Riccomini (Port Matilda, Penn.) of the Rocky Mountain Series, while 17-year-old Sophie Pearson (Victor, Mont.) finished in bronze medal position with a score of 70.25.
In the men’s competition there was a staggering variety of tricks going down from the early morning’s practice straight through to the final hits of the day. In the final, however, it would be Pouch separating himself from the pack with a double cork 1260 mute and switch double cork misty 1260 combo that gave him a two-jump totalled score of 177.50 points and the gold medal.
“We started a little earlier in the morning today than in most competitions so it was a little hard, but by the time finals started it was really nice and soft, and really fun,” said 19-year-old Pouch, a representative of the New Hampshire Series. “The jump was perfect. Not too big so that it was scary but not too small, so you could still do what you needed to do. I had a great time and It’s really cool to win today, especially because it’s the first one at Nationals. I’m really excited.”
Second went to 18-year-old Emerson Lawton (Traverse City, Mich.) with a score of 175.00, as the Rocky Mountain Series rider added big air silver to a 2019 Nationals haul that also includes slopestyle gold from Monday. Third place, meanwhile, belonged to Brian Gardiner (Jay, N.Y.), also of the New Hampshire Series, as the 20-year-old made it back-to-back bronzes after finishing in the same position in slopestyle on Monday.