Saturday was a good day to be an alternate in the snowboard slopestyle event at Buttermilk.
Both the men’s and women’s events featured podium performances from riders who didn’t know they were going to compete until Saturday morning.
“This morning I was pretty exhausted and training didn’t start out the best. I wasn’t landing anything,” New Zeland’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott said. “But I’ve ridden this course all week, preparing if I maybe got a spot. So when I found out I got a spot I was pretty ready and then things started coming together in my practice.”
The 17-year-old competing in her first X Games Aspen dominated the competition out of the gate, putting together a run she’d never landed before featuring back-to-back 900s that earned her a 90-point score.
“Kind of risk it for the biscuit … that was my mentality there,” Sadowski-Synnott said about her first run.
A similar scenario played out during the men’s competition, where Norwegian rider Mons Røisland also competed as an alternate after Summit County’s Chris Corning dropped out because of a foot injury he re-aggravated in Friday’s big air competition.
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Røisland was the first of the 10 competitors to drop in and set the standard, earning a 91.33.
His first-run score kept him at the top until the third and final run, when the competition turned it up.
Rene Rinnekangas was the first rider to unseat Røisland from top spot.
An X Games Aspen rookie, Rinnekangas earned a 94 on his final run, but it wasn’t enough to claim gold.
“Rene is a special man,” said fellow snowboarder Canadian Mark McMorris.
“He’s literally the most genuine person I’ve ever met and he cracks us up, so we love being around him. He’s just the man. No sort of competitiveness about him, he just wants to ride his best. I like that. It’s calming.”
McMorris, an X Game favorite who got bronze in slopestyle in both the 2018 X Games and PyeongChang Olympics, was the last to drop in Saturday and was sitting out of medal contention in fifth place.
With a slingshot start at the top of the course, he was able to deliver an impressive and nearly flawless run that catapulted him to first place with a score of 98.
“It was really special,” McMorris said about his victory Saturday after getting second in X Games big air Friday night. “I think what was different for me today was I know I have these tricks, (but) I haven’t really put them together.
“Last night here, I knew I had the tricks but I did a totally different run, and I guess it was just more calculated risk than Hail Marying.”
McMorris walked away with his eighth X Games gold medal and 17th medal overall, leaving Rinnekangas with silver and Røisland with bronze.
It was a bit more of a fairy-tale ending for alternate Sadowski-Synnott, who not only walked away from the event with a gold medal, besting her first run score by earning a 91 on her final run, but also made history, becoming New Zealand’s first X Games gold medalist in snowboarding. She won silver Thursday in big air.
“I really can’t believe it. Coming into this I just wanted to put down stuff I’ve never landed in comp before, just get a feel for the X Games,” she said. “It’s the sickest comp ever.”
American Hailey Langland, who did not compete in 2018 due to an injury, won silver and Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi finished with bronze.
Sadowski-Synnott was bumped up when Jamie Anderson, the most decorated woman in X Games history, dropped out after a scary crash while competing in big air Thursday.
Anderson took to Instagram to explain why she did not compete in slopestyle and congratulate Saadowski-Synnott on her gold medal.
“I’m so happy to say the alternate rider, @zoisynnott got to compete today and won frickin Gold!!!” Anderson wrote in her post.
Sports editor Austin Colbert contributed to this story.