The eighth and final day of the 9th La Molina 2011 FIS World Snowboarding Championships, was a spectacular event, with four world champions in one day and incredible public attendance at La Molina.
Due to delays on Friday because of strong winds, the male and female finals for the Parallel Slalom (PSL) coincided with the finals of the Slopestyle Competition (SBS). Therefore, there were four titles which were given, one to the Austrian, Benjamin Karl (the star of the event with two gold medals) the Norwegian, Hilde-Katrine Engeli, in the PSL, the Belgian, Seppe Smits and the Finn, Enni Rukajarvi, in the SBS.
The SBS has undoubtedly been one of the major events, today and of the entire Championships. Thanks to a last minute inclusion (November) in the competitive program and the obvious public success (8,000 spectators), the FIS has a strong argument to make Slopestyle a triumph at the upcoming Olympics. Today, the two finals brought the freestyle spectacle everyone expected, on a circuit, where the rider had to face different challenges in the air, on rails and boxes.
Belgian Seppe Smits, bronze medalist in Barcelona’s Big Air, perfomance was incredible. Smits, having already 26.7 points in his hands, ventured into the second run pulling off a remarkable performance that included a perfectly executed Backside 1260 earning him an incredible score of 28.7. Swede Niklas Mattsson won silver and Bronze went to Finnish Ville Paumola. "There was no wind this time and the track was perfect. I risked a lot in my second run and everything was perfect. This gold medal means a lot to me, because in the Big Air I only won bronze", said the first SBS world champion Smits. "The Slopestyle track was perfectly prepared and i think we well deserve to be included into the Olympic agenda", he added.
The Ladies final was dominated by Enni Rukajärvi from Finland, who already in her first attempt, made quite a statement by scoring 26.6 points. Closest came Czech Sarka Pancochova (23.2) and Shelly Gotlieb (21.6) from New Zealand.
There were four gold medals handed out today, one of which crowned Austrian, Benjamin Karl as the superstar of this games, after he added his Slalom title to his Giant Slalom title. The main rival for Karl was the Swiss, Simon Schoch, world champion in 2007 and Olympic runner up in giant slalom in 2006. But Phillip’s brother couldn’t keep up with the quality of the Austrian. In the first heat Karl, for the first time, was left behind by 4 hundredths of seconds, but in the second run the great favorite pulled ahead by almost three seconds. Karl, who also leads the Overall World Cup, was again accompanied on the podium by Slovenian Rok Marguc, who won bronze today after silver in the giant slalom event a few days ago.“I don’t have words to express how I feel right now. This is my second gold medal in these championships and the third in my career. I’m leaving La Molina more than satisfied with my triumphs and really happy with how everything went here,’ declared a very content Karl. “It wasn’t as easy as it looked, because in the semi finals I only won by a bit against my teammate, Andreas (Prommegger) and Simon (Schoch) has beaten me in the first run of the finals".
Contrary to the male category, the women’s number one in the Giant Slalom, the Russian, Alena Zavarzina, didn’t make it into the slalom finals. This opened the door to the finals for the Olympic Champion, Dutch Nicolien Sauerbreij and Hilde-Katrine Engeli from Norway. Engeli, although having a rather weak season, dominated today’s races throughout the whole day, losing not a single run from the quarters on. Therefore only silver was left for Sauerbreij, who fought hard but finally couldn’t stand a chance. The bronze medal was decided between two Austrians, Claudia Riegler and Heidi Neururer. Riegler, who already won silver in the PGS on Wednesday, returned to the podium and showed everyone that at 37 years, she’s still one of the best on the circuit.