Spencer O’Brien led the Comox Valley charge at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.
The Courtenay snowboarder won her first-ever women’s slopestyle gold medal Friday with a clean run that included a switch backside 720, switch cab 540 and a frontside 720. O’Brien took top spot with score of 91.00. Jamie Anderson was second in 89.00 and Halley Langland third at 88.00.
“Today was very, very validating for me,” said O’Brien, who last year landed the first-ever backside 900 in an X Games women’s snowboard slopestyle final. This was the 27-year-old O’Brien’s 10th X Games and brings her medal count to five (one gold, one silver, three bronze).
O’Brien won the 2012 World Snowboarding Championships and in 2013 won gold at the FIS World Championships, helping her qualify for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
Meanwhile the Valley’s other snowboarder at the X Games, Darcy Sharpe of Comox, finished sixth in both men’s slopestyle (Saturday) and big air (Friday) in his first appearance at the Games. Canada Snowboard notes the 19-year-old Sharpe’s most memorable achievement was placing second at the 2012 FIS Junior World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain.
“Darcy finished his 13/14 season as the fourth overall on the TTR ranking, competing in big air, slopestyle and halfpipe events, able to hold his own in all of them and produce podium wins,” Canada Snowboard says.
Darcy’s sister Cassie Sharpe was also making her X Games debut and she finished fourth in the women’s ski superpipe Friday with a score of 79.33. Sharpe was one of eight athletes to receive an invite to the event.
“I nailed my first run, but I tried to go bigger on my second and third run to increase the amplitude,” said Sharpe. “I’m pretty happy with how the day went. The whole experience was very exciting. There are so many veterans of the sport here who know what they’re doing. They’ve been here so many times. It was such a big honour to be the rookie among them.”
American Maddie Bowman won the women’s superpipe final with a score of 89.00. Japan’s Ayana Onozuka (85.00) and fellow American Annalisa Drew (83.00) joined Bowman on the podium.
It was a banner year for Sharpe in 2015. The 23-year-old won a silver medal at the World Championships, won her first World Cup and finished second at the Dew Tour. Her performance caught the eyes of the X Games selection committee to earn her an invitation this year.
“Just getting an invite to the X Games tells you that you’re one of the best in the world,” added Sharpe. “For me my performance validates that I’m capable of being in the running with these girls. I think that is the biggest thing for me. It’s nice to see I can be up there. Now I need to perfect the run that I have.”
Sharpe believes the experience of an event of this magnitude will help her development.
“I’m working on controlling my nerves,” said Sharpe. “It’s a pretty crazy experience looking down from pipe and seeing all the fans cheering for you. The fans are waiting for you to put on a show. I wasn’t used to that at World Cups, but that’s how it is here. It’s so cool and so intimidating at the same time. It was so exciting and I’m looking forward to coming back.”