FIS Freestyle Summer Grand Prix Wraps Up With Thrilling Finale in Brisbane
The inaugural FIS Freestyle Ski Summer Grand Prix series came to an exciting conclusion last weekend in Brisbane, Australia. After stops in Switzerland and Utah earlier this summer, the world's top freestyle aerial skiers gathered at the Geoff Henke Olympic Winter Training Centre for a dramatic finish to the groundbreaking competition.
Aussies Shine on Home Soil
In front of a boisterous home crowd, Australia's Airleigh Frigo stole the show, winning the women's event with a score of 85.36. Her teammate Abbey Willcox followed close behind in second place with 79.69 points. Ukraine's Diana Yablonska rounded out the podium in third with 68.44 points.
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Despite the Aussies' success in Brisbane, Canada's Marion Thenault still clinched the overall women's title for the series. Thenault, who did not compete in Brisbane due to injury, earned 200 points over the three events. Australian veteran Laura Peel secured second place overall with 160 points, though she too sat out the Brisbane finale with an unspecified injury. Frigo's win allowed her to vault to third in the final standings with 100 points.
Swiss Star Werner Takes Men's Crown
On the men's side, Switzerland's Pirmin Werner wowed the judges en route to the event victory. His score of 146.37 was over 20 points clear of silver medalist Dmytro Kotovskyi from Ukraine. Werner's Swiss teammate Noé Roth had led the overall standings coming into Brisbane but faltered in the finals to finish off the podium.
Werner's gold medal performance propelled him to the top spot in the overall standings with 220 points. Despite his Brisbane struggles, Roth held on to second place overall with 190 points. American Christopher Lillis, who skipped the trip down under, rounded out the overall podium in third position with 160 points.
New Event Brings Added Exposure to Freestyle Skiing
The FIS Freestyle Ski Summer Grand Prix represented uncharted territory for the sport of aerials. While off-season water ramp competitions have occurred for years, this marked the first time the world's top athletes came together for an organized summer tour. The series spanned three continents over just six weeks, giving the sport valuable global exposure outside the Winter Olympic cycle.
Rather than landing on hard-packed snow, athletes dove into pools from ramps as high as 60 feet. The water provided a safer alternative for attempting more difficult tricks, as crashes came with less risk of injury. The altered format led to several female competitors successfully landing triple flips, a rarity on snow.
Could Summer Tours Become the Norm?
The successful debut of the FIS Freestyle Summer Grand Prix raises the question of whether off-season tours could become a regular fixture. Aside from providing additional competition opportunities, permanent summer circuits present some clear advantages.
Travel logistics are simpler without having to account for unpredictable weather at mountain resorts. The events also reduce costs since artificial snowmaking is not required. And important environmental benefits emerge from avoiding the use of snow cannons that require massive amounts of water and electricity.
Additionally, staging competitions in big cities during warmer months expands the potential viewing audience. This became clear in Brisbane, where large crowds turned out at an urban training facility rather than some far-off ski area.
It will never replace skiing on snow, but it's an alternative way of showcasing events in warmer places.
Climate Change Adds Urgency
While athletes hope to maintain traditions of skiing down snowy slopes, the motivation behind expanding summer competitions is apparent. Climate change poses a significant threat to the future of snow sports, with warming temperatures reducing reliable access to snow.
Last season saw cancellations of World Cups due to lack of snow. Areas dependent on artificial snowmaking are also becoming increasingly vulnerable as winter warm spells become more frequent. There is a growing realization within the ski community that adaptation is necessary for long-term survival.
While the debut of the FIS Freestyle Summer Grand Prix alone will not resolve these pressing issues, it does offer a template for how snow sports might evolve to maintain relevance in the years ahead.
Bright Future for Summer Tours
Based on the rave reviews from athletes and fans over the past month and a half, the FIS Freestyle Summer Grand Prix seems destined to become a regular event. The creative format provides a fun showcase for aerial skills while expanding the sport's reach into new areas.
Pending decisions by the FIS, supporters of the summer series will likely get their wish. With climate pressures mounting and exposure benefits clear, get ready for more pool splashing from your favorite freestyle skiers for years to come.
Key Takeaways from Inaugural FIS Freestyle Summer Grand Prix
- Aussie skiers Frigo and Willcox won in front of an enthusiastic home crowd in Brisbane.
- Despite not competing in Brisbane, Thenault and Werner won overall titles.
- Summer tours provided added exposure for the sport outside the Winter Olympics.
- Water ramps enabled athletes to try more difficult tricks.
- Events brought competitions to cities, expanding potential audience.