The Volkl Freeski Open kicked off Wednesday at Cardrona, NZ, with the slopestyle qualifiers. The top 10 skiers in last years competition snagged a change to compete in the August 6 finals (bypassing the qualifiers), Top athletes from the New Zealand Freeride Series were also granted spots. The results are in and Russ Henshaw of Australia placed first, with reigning champion Bobby Brown of the U.S. coming in at a close second, and Gus Kenworthy, also a U.S. athlete, in third.
Henshaw pulled two back-to-back double corks, narrowly slipping into first, with just 1.75 points more than Brown. “The level of riding was higher than at the X Games and just keeps progressing,” said judge Dion Newport. Brown, two-time X Games Gold medalist and last years Freeski Open slopestyle champion was the only rider to pull a switch double misty, and Kenworthy completed a double cork 1260 and a switch double cork 1080 to earn his third place standing.
We asked 20-year-old Australia native Russ Henshaw about the competition, surfing, and what he hopes to accomplish this next year.
What did you expect going into the competition this year?
I really wanted to podium. I knew I had the tricks, but it came down to whether I could land them. I guess leading into the competition it was all mental—I tried to keep calm and convince myself I had what it took to make the top three.
What obstacles did you have going into the competition?
Bobby Brown—(laughs). The guy is a machine! He stomped everything and made it look easy, and [he] strives to win every competition. I’m stoked we were able to share the podium together because he’s a super good skier and a super nice guy.
Tell me about your winning run.
My first run in the finals was what did it. I won the qualifiers, and thought that I would do the same run. I went huge on all three jumps and managed to land them all. When I got back to the top, I found out I had a good score. During the second run I was just waiting and hoping people didn’t knock me out of first.
You pulled back-to-back double corks (a left-side 1080 and a right side 12) to win. Are those your favorite tricks ?
That was actually the first time I’d done that in competition, so I’m pretty stoked. My favorite trick would be a cork 5 tail [grab].
If you weren’t a pro skier what would you be?
Definitely a pro surfer. (laughs)
Who’s your biggest influence in the skiing world?
I’ve always looked up to Jon Olsson since I was a kid. The guy is amazing— he can do any trick and make it look easy.
What else do you hope to accomplish this coming winter?
I’d like to podium at the X Games, and also at a few big air competitions.
The Volkl Freeski Open halfpipe competition is scheduled for today at 9:30 a.m. in New Zealand.