Holly Crawford (AUS) and Michal Ligocki (POL) claimed victory in a halfpipe contest held today in Valmalenco, Italy. In the second to last halfpipe competition of the 2010 LG Snowboard FIS World Cup, the Australian successfully competed in the ladies' final earning 40.4 points thus celebrating her career's second victory after Furano, Japan, 2007. Ursina Haller (SUI, 37.5) and Mercedes Nicoll (CAN, 37.1) rounded out the podium as second and third respectively.
On the men's side of things, Michal Ligocki made history with his career's first win by becoming the first Polish male rider to claim victory in a halfpipe World Cup event. By scoring 40.7 points he relegated Roger Kleivdal (NOR, 37.2) to second and Switzerland's Patrick Burgener (37.0) to third. Fourth ranked Canadian Justin Lamoureux (34.8) took over the World Cup lead with only one halfpipe contest to come at the World Cup finals in La Molina, Spain, next weekend.
With today's triumph, Michal Ligocki also followed in his families' footsteps, in many respects: His cousin Paulina Ligocka became the first ever Polish lady to win a halfpipe World Cup in Leysin, 2006. In 2008, his older brother Mateusz also celebrated his first ever World Cup win in a snowboard cross race held in Valmalenco. And two years later, at the same venue, the writing was on the wall for Michal Ligocki what educed the spontaneous words "I love Valmalenco" from him.
A dream come true for Ligocki
However, the victory was a big surprise for Ligocki as he had made it to the finals only once (Serre Chevalier 2003) in 55 World Cup starts before. Due to this, the best result to his belt was an eighth rank. But due to a high and very clean executed winning run consisting of "backside air", "frontside 900", "backside 900", "frontside 720" and a "cab 720" to finish things off, the two-time Olympian finally got the knack. "A dream came true today. I think all the pressure from the Olympics was gone so I was able to concentrate on my riding and didn't have to think of a good result. It's great. I guess I will party the next days," the 24-years-old said.
Roger Kleivdal who achieved his first ever podium as runner-up today was also all smiles; especially as the second best qualifier - after having bailed in the first run of the final - was able to land a nice trick series in the second run of the finals. The Norwegian sticked a "frontside 720", "haakon flip", "frontside air" as well as "back-to-back 900's". I was pretty nervous as I wanted to do good in one of the last contests of the season. I'm happy that I landed my run in the finals after I easily did it several times in the practise sessions. It's nice that this also earned me a podium result."
Best qualifiers dominate the ladies' final
Unlike the men's competition where the eighth ranked rider of the qualification was able to succeed, the top ladies of the qualifiers were able to put their stamp on the finals - however, with reversed ranking order. In the end, Holly Crawford celebrated due to her big air time while sticking "lien air", "backside air", "frontside 540", "japan air" and "frontside 720" before wrapping off her run with a "cab 360". "It's great. I guess I do better when contests are chilly and relaxed," the 26-years-old Olympian who had placed eighth in Vancouver said.
Her career's second triumph was also the second win for her home country Australia throughout the World Cup weekend in Valmalenco. Two days ago, Alex Pullin had clinched his first ever snowboard cross victory; a fact which Crawford commented with a twinkle in her eye: "It seems that we are doing well if no coach is around."
Ursina Haller was also satisfied with her first ever podium; especially as she was able to showcase her true riding skills in a World Cup contest for the first time: "So far I wasn't very successful in the FIS World Cup. I'm happy that I made it today. It was some nice riding today and if good things come out of it, it's even better," the 24-years-old stated after having landed "frontside air", "backside 540", "frontside 540", "backside air" and "frontside 720".
Next week, from March 18th through 21st, 2010, the first ever World Cup finals to be held in Spain will be staged. The final decisions in snowboard cross, halfpipe and parallel giant slalom will be held in La Molina.