Valmalenco, Italy (30 March 2015) – Cardrona NZ freeskier Beau-James Wells (Wanaka) has defended his Junior World title, taking first place in halfpipe at the International Ski Federation (FIS) Freestyle Skiing Junior World Championships in Italy overnight.
The snow rolled in just in time for the event, slowing competitors’ speed and making for tougher than expected conditions. However, with a strong practice session under his belt and memories of his 2014 World Championship win still fresh in his mind, Wells’ first run proved to be the gold medal winning effort and his score of 90.80 could not be touched by any of his fellow competitors.
At 18ft, the Valmalenco halfpipe is smaller than the (22ft) halfpipe the New Zealand team are accustomed to training and competing in at their home resort of Cardrona as well as at their northern hemisphere base of Breckenridge. Wells adapted with apparent ease, laying down good technical tricks and finding the amplitude he needed in spite of the slow conditions.
His winning run comprised 540, double cork 900, 900, 720, switch 540.
“I’m very happy,” commented Wells, who also won a silver medal in Slopestyle on Saturday. “It’s a good way to finish.” At 19 years old, this will be his final year of competition at junior level.
Jake Mageau (USA) scored an 82.80, also on his first run of the day, to take the silver medal, while Birk Irving (USA) snuck onto the podium thanks to his strong showing on his final run.
The 12 man, three-run final saw two other Kiwis in action, with Finn Bilous (Wanaka) coming away with a seventh place finish and Miguel Porteous (Christchurch) finishing 12th.
While Bilous was pleased with his result, Porteous said he had “mixed feelings” having landed all of his high level tricks over the course of the three runs but not being able to land one complete run. At 15 years old, both athletes can look forward to building on their experience.
Jackson Wells was unable to compete in the halfpipe competition following an injury sustained in yesterday’s practice session.
Strong performances at the FIS Freestyle Skiing Junior World Championships as well as at the FIS Snowboard Junior World Championships earlier this month mean that New Zealand has now secured the maximum number of quota spots – one for each discipline freeski and snowboard, slopestyle and halfpipe – for next year’s Youth Olympic Winter Games.
“I’m really proud of the team,” says Snow Sports NZ Head Park & Pipe Coach, Tom Willmott. “There’s been a good supportive team atmosphere throughout the competition.”
Image credit: FIS