freestyle skiing

Aaron Blunck Ends Halfpipe With Frightening Fall, David Wise Races Up Hill to Help

The fall was one of several harrowing crashes during the event as high winds made for brutal conditions

Aaron Blunck entered the men's freestyle skiing halfpipe event as the lead qualifier, but on his third and final chance at putting up a medal run, he ended up taking a horrifying fall.

The fall was one of several harrowing crashes during the event as high winds made for brutal conditions.

Blunck, the last competitor to go in the event, crashed his head and shoulder into the wall of the halfpipe while trying to land a trick in the breezy conditions.

His U.S. teammate and reigning gold medalist David Wise was seen charging up the halfpipe following the fall.

Blunck eventually sat up and made his way down. The extent of his injuries, if any remained unclear.

His competitors were seen clapping for him as he made his way down the hill.

Just before Blunck went, NBC Olympic freestyle skiing analyst Tom Wallisch commented: "These conditions are abysmal right now.”

And after his first run, Blunck, the top qualifier, labeled the competition “gnarly.” It had nothing to do with the performances and everything to do with the poor weather. Quite a few competitors caught wind gusts in the air and either had to bail on tricks or even worse, crashed. A common sight was watching skiers hike back up the halfpipe to retrieve a ski. Or, in the case of Wise, both of them after his wipeout in his second run.

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Although the wind was reported to be around 15 mph (24 kph), the gusts kept on coming. It was cold, too, with the wind chill hovering around minus 26 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 32 degree Celsius).

“I think most of the main guys have scaled their runs back,” said Gus Kenworthy, the American freestyler who won silver at the 2014 Sochi Games in slopestyle and now represents Britain in the halfpipe. “The top three were so impressive, their runs were so good. But they’re not the runs that they wanted to do coming out here. Everyone has had to adapt and modify … It’s a tough tough day to do this.”

Blunck entered the medal event at the top of the standings with a score of 92.00 in qualifiers. He was followed by Nico Porteous of New Zealand.

Blunck finished in seventh at the event, with U.S. teammates Wise and Alex Ferreira taking two of top three spots.

Wise, the two-time defending Olympic champion, scored a 90.75 to finish second in the halfpipe final on Friday night. He was joined on the podium by reigning silver medalist and fellow American Alex Ferreira, who earned bronze with an 86.75 score.

New Zealand's Nico Porteous dethroned Wise for gold with a score of 93.0.

Porteous, who claimed bronze at the 2018 PyeongChang Games and gold at the 2021 World Championships, is the first skier other than Wise to win the Olympic event. Wise was looking to become the first American male to win three consecutive golds in the same event at the Winter Olympics.

One other American in the final, Birk Irving (80.0 score) finished fifth.

Several athletes in the event noted the difficult conditions as strong wind gusts impacted nearly every skier.

The last Alpine skiing race of the Beijing Olympics has been tentatively rescheduled as organizers decide whether the wind is too strong for competition. There, the wind was expected to top 20 mph (30 kph.)

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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