BEIJING (AP) — Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino had their bubbles burst before qualifying began for women's snowboard big air.
Behind the scenes, these pandemic Olympics haven't been what they hoped.
“Just like a little bit tapped out,” Anderson said. “I’m excited to go home.”
Anderson wiped out on her first two jumps in qualifying Monday and failed to crack the finals field, while Marino dropped out of the contest after a distressing fall during practice over the weekend. Long shot U.S. teammate Hailey Langland will be the only American in the finals after grabbing the 12th and final spot.
The 31-year-old Anderson came to China a two-time defending champion in slopestyle and won silver in big air at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. She finished ninth trying to defend her slopestyle titles last week, then said on Instagram that she “straight up couldn’t handle the pressure” and that her “ mental health and clarity just hasn’t been on par.”
“It was like, honestly hard," she said Monday. “We’ve been here for so long and I feel like our whole crew is just over it. Just barely hanging on by a fricking strand of hair. Just like, tired of the food, homesick, tired of the pressure.”
The Californian said she was in a better headspace coming into Monday, but it all fell apart quickly when she crashed out twice trying a fairly conservative cab double underflip.
Anderson needed a massive trick in Run 3 and then a lot of luck to make the finals. She held up her end, throwing down a frontside double cork 1080 — two off-axis spins with three rotations. That earned her 89.75 points, the second highest-scoring stunt from anybody all day, and briefly pushed her into the top 12.
Good fortune didn't follow, though. She ended up 15th.
“Oh gosh, honestly heartbroken," she said. “It’s, like, such a high high when you do well here and, like, the worst low when you can’t pull it together.”
Anderson had a rocky road even getting to the Olympics, including a break-in of her car and uncharacteristic on-slope struggles. She says she's not ready to retire, but she's not sure what's next for her as far as competitive snowboarding.
“Part of me just wants to fricking quit, part of me wants to go work harder and like come back and win everything, because I know I’m capable," she said. "It’s been a long journey for me. I’m going to definitely just take a little time and go free ride, ride some (powder), and then reset and see what I feel.”
Marino, coming off a silver medal in last week's slopestyle event, was set to jump 23rd in the 30-snowboarder field, just ahead of 2018 gold medalist Anna Gasser of Austria. It was a surprise when she didn’t appear.
Team USA snowboarding said Marino fell during practice a few days ago and is “prioritizing her health.”
Marino's scratch was a late decision. The Connecticut resident shared video of herself practicing at Big Air Shougang on Instagram about 12 hours before qualifying began, encouraging followers to tune in.
Langland said Marino was shaken physically and mentally by her fall.
“I don’t think it’s right to be pushing yourself when mentally and physically, you aren’t all there,” Langland said. “That’s when it gets really dangerous, and I’m really proud of her for sticking up for herself and making the call to not ride today.”
Slopestyle gold medalist Zoi Sadowski Synnott of New Zealand landed the biggest jump of qualifying with a frontside double cork 1080 and finished first. Japanese teammates Kokomo Murase and Reira Iwabuchi were second and third, respectively. Gasser finished sixth.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Sébastien Toutant of Canada crashed hard during men's qualifying and won’t defend his title.
Toutant needed to land a big trick on his third run to crack the top 12, but he slammed into the icy slope attempting a triple cork 1620 — three off-axis flips with 4 1/2 rotations.
The 29-year-old fell on his back, and his head whipped back hard enough to knock his goggles off entirely. He remained down for several minutes before being helped up and walking away.
Max Parrot, the Canadian who took gold in slopestyle last week, leads after qualifying, followed by Takeru Otsuka of Japan and American Red Gerard, who won gold at slopestyle in 2018.
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