Campbell River’s Teal Harle expects to be able to build off of his phenomenal performance in the Olympic Men’s Slopestyle Skiing final and roll with it into his next competition.
“I am very excited by the result and definitely very happy,” Harle said from Pyeong Chang, South Korea. “It’s definitely a good confidence boost.”
Harle finished in fifth place in the competition on Saturday (Sunday, Feb. 18, Korea time), one of three Canadians in the top-six. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand won the bronze medal and Evan McEachern finished sixth just behind Harle.
The competition involved a two-run qualifying heat which determined the top 12 skiers out of 30 who go onto the three-run final. The best of the two runs in the qualifying round counts as their score. Harle skied two calm and cool runs, finishing sixth after the qualification round and securing a spot in the finals. He registered scores of 88 and 91.2.
“I was super happy with those, I wish I could have done one of those one more time in the finals and then had some more time to play around with stepping it up,” Harle said. “Yeah, I was definitely real happy with qualifying runs.”
A mistake on the rail in the first run in the final left Harle in ninth place after scoring 22.8. His second run was a good one until the end when he crashed his final landing, giving him another low score of 25.6.
“My plan was to land the first one and then try to step it up a little bit more,” Harle said. “And then I messed up on one of the rails.”
Harle admitted that mistake “messed with my head” so he stepped up his rail tricks in the second run, nailed them but crashed in the jumps.
Stepping up involves doing bigger, harder tricks. More spins, more technically-difficult manoeuvres.
“The second run, it was all good, I just crashed because I was kind of a little bit messed up in my brain,” he said.
So, he just told himself he was “being dumb” and should just mellow out. He obviously listened to himself because the third run was the best of them all, nailing a score of 90 which put him in fourth place after completing his run but afterwards other skiers pushed his placement down to fifth.
He toyed with going for a “Hail Mary” run and try and score big but consulting with his coaches he decided to play it more safely and land the elements he needed to get a good score.
The three days of training at the hill give the skiers a chance to figure out the course. Usually, the rails are the most variable component. Jumps are much the same anywhere, although the Pyeong Chang hill was a little different, Harle said. Then once you’ve got the course figured out you develop a plan of how you’re going to approach each run, ideally increasing the difficulty each time.
“And then follow that plan as best we can,” Harle said.
As a team, the competition was very satisfying.
“We were all very, very happy,” Harle said. “We’ve all been talking about ‘what the heck! How did we end up with three Canadians in the top six, that’s amazing?’ And it is. We’re all very happy and I’m very happy to be a part of that.
“The whole team has been skiing very, very well.”
After the competition, a special celebration was put on for the team at Canada House in the Olympic Village.
“Which was awesome they kinda did a really nice mini celebration.”
Having his family there to watch the race made the event particularly special. His father, mother and brother were in attendance.
“Yeah, it was definitely awesome. They made a sign and they were in the grandstand at the bottom.”
Harle didn’t see them while awaiting his race but he did see them on the video screen while he was standing awaiting his score at the bottom of the course.
“It was super nice having them there because with my sport there’s not really any contests close to home so there’s not much chance for them to come out and watch.”
Many Campbell Riverites took time out to watch the competition on TV and cheer Harle on. Social media channels were filled with supporting comments and congratulations. Harle did see some of it on social media and appreciated it.
“It’s been really cool I didn’t really expect that much response from there, so yeah, it’s been awesome.”
Harle stayed at the Olympics after his competition and checked out some of his events. He was going to catch some curling just so he could say he saw the curling but he also planned to check out the speedskating and the snowboarding and other events.
For his first Olympics, Harle said was “super cool.” He didn’t have any difficulty competing in the huge event. Being on the world stage didn’t seem to change the atmosphere of the race itself.
“It felt pretty normal,” Harle said. “You know in the back of your head (your at the Olympics) but it didn’t really make much of a difference in my mind.”
The Canadian men’s slopestyle team resumes its season on the FIS World Cup tour when it heads to Italy in March for the last competition of the season.