Poor visibility meant just one run for both men and women in the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Halfpipe final today at Winter Games NZ 2013, but smooth and seamless runs from Devin Logan (USA) and Antti-Jussi 'AJ' Kemppainen (FIN) took out the women and men's gold medals respectively.
Devin Logan's score of 84.60 marked a stunning return from a serious knee injury sustained shortly after winning halfpipe gold at Winter Games NZ 2012.
In her first competitive appearance since the injury, she dropped into Cadrona's Olympic halfpipe eighth out of 12 finalists, just as the weather closed in.
She still threw down a huge run including a left 540 tail, left ally-oop mute, mute grab, right flare safety, left 720 safety with a switch left ally-oop 360 to finish.
"The weather didn't co-operate as everyone had hoped, but I'm stoked to be back from my injury and happy to take the top spot. Feeling good!" she said.
Top women's qualifier from yesterday, Angeli Vanlaanen (USA) then had to wait more than an hour before her run but still scored high with 80.00, enough for silver.
Mirjam Jaeger (SUI) took bronze with a solid run of 74.80.
Amy Sheehan (AUS) finished eighth while New Zealand's sole finalist, Janina Kuzma took a fall in the second half of her run and finished 10th overall.
Ayana Onozuka (JPN), who finished second in yesterday's qualifying, also fell and finished 11th.
Men's winner, AJ Kemppainen topped the podium with a score of 86.60, ahead of American duo Aaron Blunck (83.80) and Taylor Seaton (79.40).
The Finn's winning run started with a switch left 900 safety into switch right 720 safety, left 900 tail, right 900 tail and a left 540 tail.
Describing conditions as 'pretty tough', he was happy that the competition was completed.
"It feels pretty good. I didn't really expect anything this cool, but it's definitely a good start for the season and I'm happy. I'll take it," he said.
New Zealand's Lyndon Sheehan couldn't quite repeat his second-highest qualifying run from yesterday and just missed out on a medal, finishing fourth with 76.4.
Fellow Kiwi, Beau-James Wells took a fall in his run and finished 11th, one place ahead of 2011 AFP World Tour overall champion, Justin Dorey (CAN).
Across the hill on the slopestyle course, it was a training day for elite snowboarders including USA's Shaun White.
Head judge, Iztok Sumatic, from Slovenia, said he was looking forward to an awesome competition that was wide open.
"There are probably between 10 and 15 riders who will contest the podium. That's great for the event and great for the sport," he said.
The Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2013 continues tomorrow with the FIS Snowboard World Cup Slopestyle qualifying at Cardrona, FIS Australia New Zealand Cup Giant Slalom men's race at Coronet Peak and the start of Winter Games NZ's elite curling tournament in Naseby.
The Downtown Sessions festival continues with the Phoenix Foundation playing Queenstown Memorial Hall tonight plus entertainment and live music at the Lotto Villages in Queenstown and Wanaka.
The Adventure Film Festival presented by Auckland Airport premieres on Monday.
- The Southland Times