Ashley Battersby at X Games Aspen 2013: photo credit AP
Slopestyle skier Ashley Battersby lay tangled in the side fence at the X Games, her knee clearly in distress. The Chicago born skier was sitting in third place with an almost guaranteed podium at the Aspen X Games Slopestyle Event on her twenty fifth birthday. Surely, a bittersweet birthday present.
It took forty five minutes to clear the course after Ashley was recovered by ski patrol before the last run of the entire event. Trouble was, the last run of the competition was Kaya Turski’s, the Montreal athlete who had won gold in this X Games event at both Tignes and Aspen for the previous three years in a row but had failed to score above fifty, crashing in her first two runs in the 2013 competition.
Who said women’s snowsports are not exciting? One run left. Turski knew if she smashed it and took first, second or third she would knock off the birthday girl who had lain in an injured heap moments before. But wait, there’s more.
The back story to the Aspen X Games competition was not known by every spectator but it made for tension filled viewing by those in the know.
Australian slopestyle skier and FIS slopestyle world champion at the time, Anna Segal, was the first female to win gold at X Games slopestyle when it was introduced in 2008. She went on to win a silver in Tignes and a bronze in Aspen in years ahead.
Coming off the back of a bronze medal at Copper Mountain a week earlier, Anna was in a good place to podium at the X Games 2013. A fall in training meant mild concussion and as a member of the Olympic Winter Institute she was ordered to get a pass from the team doctor to compete. She failed the concussion test and the team doctor didn’t give her a pass.
Her Kiwi friend and slopestyle colleague, nineteen year old Rose Battersby (no relation to Ashley) was given Anna’s invitational spot at the X Games instead. A fantastic opportunity for a burgeoning slopestyler or so she thought.
Rose took a fall on her training run and broke her back in full view of the tight knit female slopestyle community (she has since had surgery and will make a full recovery).
Rose Battersby attended to on course
With Rose down prior to the first official competition run and no one knowing how bad her back injury was or if she could walk again let alone ski, then Kaya not hitting the mark and now Ashley down, the final run of the competition was bound to be nerve wracking.
Kaya needed to beat 92.33, scored by seventeen year old Norwegian Tiril Sjastad Christiansen who, should she win, would become the youngest female to win an X Games medal.
It was all down to one run, delayed for forty five minutes. Sadly during this time ESPN chose to broadcast the men’s snow mobile competition instead.
Kaya managed a rodeo 540, switch 720 and a switch cord 540 to score 90 points and a second place podium, knocking limping birthday girl Ashley off the podium and giving Norway gold.
Norway’s Tiril Sjastad Christiansen and her gold medal
Back home in Australia I was unable to live stream the event and literally followed Twitter, Facebook and the X Games live scoring online while interacting with friends watching it in the USA on Skype.
Let’s just say it was intense, everything that an elites sporting event should be – a story that involved shattered dreams, global firsts, champions in distress and elation, friendships versus competition and brilliant skiing. And it was all presented by the women.
I’ve heard the arguments of women not being as ‘visually spectacular’ as the men but when you understand what a woman’s body and a man’s body can do in the halfpipe or on the slopestyle course then these girls are just as spectacular as the blokes. They risk their lives, which are just as valuable, the same way the men do. At least the X Games understand this, offering equal prize money to men and women.
I certainly know where I’m going to be come the Winter Olympics, slopeside with the slopestyle girls, they rock.
Happy International Women’s Day to all the rocking skiers and boarders of the world. Every day is women’s day.
Want to see Tiril Sjastad’s winning run? Click here.
Do you think women’s snowsports should be given a bigger broadcast go?