Campbell River’s Teal Harle put two missed runs behind him in the Men’s Slopestyle Skiing final in the Winter Olympics Saturday (Sunday, Korea time) and nailed his third and final run to finish in fifth place, just outside the medals.
The 21-year-old Harle was part of an impressive showing by the Canadian team which put Alex Beaulieu-Marchand on the medal podium with a bronze medal. Teammate Evan McEachern finished just behind Harle in sixth place.
Harle skied two calm and cool runs in the qualifying portion of the competition and qualified in fifth place. But that calm demeanour was shaken in the final with his first two runs of the three-run final marred by costly mistakes. Those runs scored 22.80 and 25.60.
Heading into the third run he was in the 12th and final spot but Harle pulled it all together for his final ride down the slope, scoring 90 with his last chance. That vaulted him into fourth at the time but runs by subsequent skiers pushed him down to fifth – within sight of the podium.
Freestyle Canada said Harle, the seventh ranked skier in the world who won the last Olympic qualifying event to secure his spot on Team Canada, demonstrated great composure in his Olympic debut, performing consistent, standout passes through the rail section and great air awareness on his jumps to record a high score of 90.00 in finals, good enough for 5th place.
“Today was unreal, I’ve definitely surpassed every expectation I had for the Games,” Harle said in a Freestyle Canada press release. “Going into it, my goal was just to land a run in qualifications and I made it to finals, so that was insane. It took me three tries, but I landed a clean run in finals. I couldn’t be happier with how today went.”
Two-time Olympian, Beaulieu-Marchand won the first ever medal for Canada, a bronze, in men’s slopestyle skiing.
In one of the hottest-contested Olympic events yet, the 23-year-old X Games bronze medallist from Quebec City had to land a clutch final run in the qualifying round just to advance to the finals. Once there, he continued to execute creative lines through the rail sections with unique grabs and solid landings on his jumps to finish in third place with a high score of 92.40, improving on his 12th place finish from the 2014 Sochi Games.
X Games gold medallist Oystein Braaten of Norway is now an Olympic gold medallist, winning today’s event with a score of 95.00. Defending Olympic bronze medallist Nick Goepper of the United States added a silver medal to his collection, with a score of 93.60.
The skill level in the competition was so high, eight of the top 12 scores in the qualifying round were 90.00 points or higher. The current World Champion, Macrae Williams of United States, and X Games Champion, Henrik Harlaut of Sweden, did not even advance to the finals.
With such a strong showing, Freestyle Canada can claim a world-leading men’s slopestyle program, securing three of the top six spots in the contest. Canada and Switzerland were the only countries to qualify three skiers into the finals, with the Swiss skiers finishing in 7th, 9th and 11th places.
With two World Cup podium finishes this season, Evan McEachran, the youngest member on Canada’s Olympic Freestyle team, finished in 6th position with a high score of 89.40 in finals, executing one of the most technical rail lines in the competition and a variety of double grabs on his jumps.
Alex Bellemare, the 24-year-old from St. Boniface, Quebec and winner of the 2016 Olympic slopestyle test event did not advance to finals, recording a high score of 64.20 in the qualification round. He finished in 22nd place.
The Canadian men’s slopestyle team will resume their season on the FIS World Cup tour, heading to Italy in March for the last competition of the season.