Zhangjiakou, China – Snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott produced the “best run of my life” to win New Zealand’s first Winter Olympics gold medal ever at the Beijing Games on Sunday.
The 20-year-old, clad in all black, came from behind to snatch the women’s snowboard slopestyle title with an incredible final run, the last of the competition. She landed a gargantuan backside double 1080 on her final jump to earn a score of 92.88, overtaking American Julia Marino for the lead.
Sadowski Synnott raised her arms in celebration before being mobbed by Marino and Australian bronze medalist Tess Coady, as her teammates waved New Zealand and silver fern flags nearby.
“Honestly it’s absolute disbelief but it probably means more to me to win New Zealand’s first Winter Olympic gold,” said Sadowski Synnott, who was born in Sydney but moved to New Zealand at age 6.
“It makes me super proud to be a Kiwi.”
New Zealand had previously won one silver and two bronze medals at the Winter Olympics — including a third-place finish for Sadowski Synnott in the Big Air competition at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
“It’s New Zealand’s first Winter Olympic gold medal and I hope that I made them proud and that they’ll celebrate for me,” she said.
Gold medal hopeful Kokomo Murase sank and finished 10th, as the 17-year-old missed out on a chance to become Japan’s youngest-ever female medalist at the Winter Games. She scored 49.05 points, while compatriot Reira Iwabuchi finished fifth with 80.03.
“I’m frustrated I fell in three runs and wasn’t able to deliver the tricks I wanted,” said Murase, who was the youngest winter X Games gold medalist when she triumphed in the 2018 big air event at the age of 13.
“I want to aim for the next Olympics.”
Women’s slopestyle in Pyeongchang ended in controversy when athletes said the final should have been canceled because of dangerous conditions.
But there were no such concerns on Sunday, with riders grinding along rails, launching off jumps and even sliding off the roof of a snow house under clear blue skies and little wind.
Sadowski Synnott took the lead after the first run but was overtaken by Marino after the second attempt, meaning the New Zealander only had one more shot to win gold.
“I knew before I dropped in that if I landed the run that I set out to do, then I would win gold,” she said.
“It was the best run of my life.”
Marino and Coady immediately left the waiting area to pile onto Sadowski Synnott in celebration, with Marino describing the winner as “an inspiration.”
“I’m so happy for her — she’s the one that’s taking the sport to the next level and I’m just happy to be a part of it and be there with her,” Marino said.
Marino finished second with 87.68 points, while Coady took bronze with 84.15.
Two-time defending champion Jamie Anderson of the United States finished well out of the running in ninth place with 60.78 points.
Now Sadowski Synnott leads the way in women’s slopestyle, and is confident the sport will continue to grow.
“It’s been a pretty crazy four years — you kind of know what it’s going to take to be on the top of the podium but I kind of owe it all to all the other girls for pushing me,” she said.
“I think it’s going in the right direction and it’s not really slowing down.”
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Source: The Japan Times