THE 2016 WINNERS OF THE FREERIDE JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (FJWC) IN GRANDVALIRA, ANDORRA EXEMPLIFY THE FINEST JUNIOR FREERIDING IN THE WORLD
The four new junior world champions crowned at the FJWC in Grandvalira have truly raised the bar for the sport and offered a glimpse at the aspiring next generation of top-level athletes.
Grandvalira, January 30, 2016 – Their age might described as “junior” but their skills certainly are not. Today’s competition on the Tossa de Caraup face is a true testimony of the future of the sport of freeride. Skiers and snowboarders, men and women both raised the bar for their respective sports in the only worldwide freeride junior championship competition.
Athletes from as far as the United States, New Zealand, and Mexico, representing over ten countries, descended on the Andorran freeride mecca to show spectators just what they have to throw down to push the sport’s limits. Beyond the top-notch skiing, the young vibes and excellent attitudes of the riders have demonstrated the type of comradery that pushes the growing sport in a positive direction.
After a dawn hike to the venue finish line, riders were ferried the last stretch to the summit with a short heli ride where they scoped the competition face offering a plethora of options for creative line choices and a multitude of airs. Weather conditions were nearly optimal, providing the young riders with clear skies and soft, spring snow. The competition face topped out at 2660m and offered just over 300 vertical meters of featured terrain at an average of 35° for the young competitors to test their skills.
It was truly a privilege to witness such an impressive level of riding in the ski men division. As the sun did its work on the face, airs and tricks complimented with full throttle skiing were the norm. Team Canada had an extremely strong showing with Jackson Bathgate (CAN) taking the top of the podium with a powerful run featuring big airs as well as stomped spins with his compatriot Nigel Zilgler (CAN) taking second place with another strong run with stylish big airs. Xander Guldman (USA) took third place with an extremely technical line highlighted by a massive backflip.
The ski women were able to take advantage of slightly softer snow conditions to put on an impressive show. Synnøve Medhus (NOR) was able to earn the top score with a run demonstrating her ability to stomp a multitude of airs. Olivia Askew (USA) took second place by taking a creative line on the right side of the venue with finesse and confident airs. Perhaps the most stylish women’s line of the day can be claimed by Illona Carlod (FRA) whose clean and tight style put her in third place.
It’s always a pleasure to see the hometown hero take first place and that’s exactly what spectators were treated to when they watched Josep Maria Naudi Descarrega (AND) raise the bar much higher than any of the other riders with a solidly stomped run featuring massive airs on the skiers right of the venue. Loïc Aubert (SUI) followed in a distant second with solid riding and a few grabs, bringing him just in front of Finn Duffy’s (NZL) playful run with plentiful smaller airs.
The snowboard women held their own with promising young Jazmine Erta (ITA) stomping the most solid run with some airs to earn her first place. Fiona Torello was able to link up a line with a few airs and excellent line choice to place her just slightly above Gaëlle Melet (SUI).
The quality of riding today is once again an indication of the extensive grassroots support freeride benefits from with the multitude of coaching programs and clubs that have helped develop these young riders’ skills. It is interesting witness the progression of skills coming to fruition as the first generation of riders to grow up with the prospect of competing on the legendary Freeride World Tour finally come of age.