Competing in the opening event of the 2012 / 2013 World Cup season in Cardrona, New Zealand, today, Australian Institute of Sport / NSW Institute of Sport rider and reigning World Champion, Holly Crawford, finished fifth, after advancing to the final as the winner and highest score in her semi-final.
The final was won by United States’ 2002 Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark, followed by France’s Sophie Rodriguez and Spain’s Queralt Castellet in third.
Crawford’s performance prompted praise from AIS halfpipe program coach Ben Alexander, who said he was more than pleased with the Cardrona result and he believes she is on track to challenge for another World Championship in Canada in January.
“I’m very happy with her progress at this point in the season,” Alexander said.
“She has been riding well, training well and she is in good shape.
“We are definitely focused on the World Championships. That is a key event for us. We are going to make a big push with the World Championships.”
Alexander said now that her first hit out for the season was finished, Crawford and other squad members will continue with fitness preparation before going back to New Zealand for a training camp in five weeks.
The squad will then resume competition in the second round of the World Cup in the United States in November.
Crawford’s assault on the World Cup season and the World Championships will be strengthened by the introduction of two new and more difficult tricks, which are expected to be added to her competition repertoire from November.
“She is already doing the new tricks in training but now it’s just a matter of getting to a stage where she does these new tricks consistently. When that occurs she will start using them in competition,” Alexander said.
Australia’s current Olympic Champion Torah Bright competed in her first World Cup event since November 2009 and also left Cardona with an encouraging result.
Except for a handful of invitation exhibitions, Bright has effectively not competed since she struck gold at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in February 2010.
With her eyes fixed on qualifying for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Bright is now reigniting her career and will be pleased with a third place in her heat in Cardrona.
The men’s halfpipe saw 2010 Olympian and VIS scholarship holder Scott James qualify for the final in a strong performance but fell, which put him down in 11th place at the end of the day.
Sixteen-year-old Kent Callister, made an impressive World Cup debut in an event that was won convincingly by Japan’s Ryo Aono, Shuhei Sata also from the Japan in second, while third place went to China’s Yiwei Zhang.
The teenage AIS athlete, narrowly missed advancing to the final after a creditable performance in the semi, to finish 13th overall.
Reigning World Champion Nate Johnstone finished 15th, delivering a gutsy performance given that the AIS / NSWIS rider was competing with bruised ribs from a training mishap.
The bruising prevented Johnstone from attempting many of his usual higher scoring tricks.